This past week, at the last hurrah before these wonderful monsoonal rains began, Tia Marta here was out with my handy dandy self-invented pod-harvesting net to bring in some of our Sonoran Desert’s bounty–just in time to avoid the aflatoxin hazard which comes with higher humidity.
With a song of thanks for this desert super-food–and with thankful recollections of some amazing mesquite aficionados–I would like to share one of my favorite mesquite recipes. This post about mesquite is a tribute to the “gotmesquite guy” Mark Moody who recently passed, and whose fabulous mesquite flour via farmers’ markets and NativeSeeds/SEARCH has fed many a happy desert-foods buff over the years. (Check out my piece in the online EdibleBajaArizona for more about Mark.)
This delectable recipe for Mesquite Bosque (pronounced boss’kay) Butter was inspired by a crack team of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Docents in the 1970s -80s who assisted in our first Mesquite Harvesting Workshops, possibly the first ever done in English. In particular I’m honoring the memories of docents Mike and Jean Mentus, Gerry Dennison, and Linda Stillman, who helped me invent this condiment and teach Museum members about it.
This recipe uses the whole dry pods freshly harvested–not milled meal (although you could enhance it with extra mesquite meal if you desire.)
RECIPE for Muff’s “MESQUITE BOSQUE BUTTER”:
You will need: 3 bowls(2 for straining, 1 for compostable fiber), 2 stirring spoons, tasting spoon, 1-2 colanders, 1 lg. saucepan for stovetop or solar oven, cheesecloth, electric mixer with pulse setting (Your grandmother’s osterizer is fine.)
Approx. 2 qts mesquite pods, clean, mature, dry (preferably fresh off the tree)
Approx. 1 quart drinking water
2 pk sure-jell (or other fruit pectin, ca.3.5oz.)
¼ C sugar (or honey optional) [Sugar helps set the gel.]
½ C raw organic agave nectar
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T butter (optional)
juice of 4 Mexican limes (or 2 lemons)
1) Rinse mesquite pods until thoroughly clean of desert dust, and drain them.
2) Place pods in large saucepan with enough drinking water to cover. Add more water if 1qt is not enough to cover pods.
3) Simmer pods 30-40 minutes until fully softened. Softening time differs with dryness of pods.
4) Water will be sweet. Through a colander over a bowl, drain pods, reserving ALL the liquid.
5) In blender, whirl softened pods–handful by handful, each handful with ¼ cup of the reserved liquid– with gentle pulses, 8-10 short pulses max for each handful of pods.
6) Into a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl, hand-remove the entire loosened juice, pulp, seed, and fiber mass after each handful. Check blender blades each time to prevent burnout of motor, as pod fibers can easily bind up the works!
7) In the colander over the bowl, drain as much of the blendered pulpy liquid from the fiber as possible, pressing, squeezing, twisting it out with cheesecloth. You might extract more if you squeeze the cheesecloth after each handful is poured from the blender.
8) Transfer the strained pulpy liquid to a saucepan. Bring it to a boil. Add lime/lemon juice, sugar, agave nectar, cinnamon, pectin, and butter, stirring all in smoothly.
9) The liquid mixture must be cooked down to concentrate it. Simmer 30-45 minutes to desired texture or thickness.
10) Funnel the mixture into jars. Cool down; refrigerate when cool.
If it thickens it will be a delicious spread–like apple-butter. If it does not gel it will be a fabulous mesquite syrup or sauce over pancakes, waffles, or ice cream! If your mix has more liquid than pulp, when it thickens it can even be served as a very rich yummy pudding.
However it comes out, you will be enjoying the health benefits of mesquite’s complex carbohydrates and its unforgettable sweet and natural taste! (Don’t forget to compost the leftover seeds and fiber—good nutrients for soil building. Or, feed it to the birds in your “back forty.”)
Plan NOW and prep for future mesquite harvests! Why not plant you own trees and enjoy their shade, their life-giving oxygen–and their nutritious food! In the coolth of morning start digging a tree hole where you want future shade. Monsoon time is a good time to plant, and there are Monsoon Plant Sales happening right now. Three mesquite species are native to our Southwest region: Velvet (Prosopis velutina), Honey mesquite (P. glandulosa), and Screwbean mesquite (P.pubescens). All three make fabulous pod meal but the best for Bosque Butter are Velvet and Honey, as their pods can be plump and full of high-carb pulp. For the most local varieties of mesquite visit Desert Survivors Nursery (desertsurvivors.org). The Tohono Chul Park’s Monsoon Madness Plant Sale Friday-Saturday, July 28-29, 2017, will have several expert local growers represented (www.tohonochul.org). NativeSeeds/SEARCH has mesquite meal in stock and expects the most recent local harvest to be available soon. (NSS’s Monsoon Plant Sale is Fri-Sun, July 28-30, for monsoon gardening plants, http://www.nativeseeds.org).
Happy harvesting–happy tree-planting–y buen provecho! de Tia Marta.