Mature pods of velvet mesquite–ready for monsoon planting or eating! (JRMondt photo)
Tia Marta’s 12’x12″ pod net, slit into center on an imaginary radius to wrap around trunk and over understory plants, edged with duct tape on non-selvedge sides (MABurgess photos)
Mesquite pods shaken from tree onto harvesting net
I finished the split center edges of my pod-harvesting net with hems in which to optionally insert saguaro ribs or PVCpipe for easy set-up around a mesquite tree trunk
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.
Some velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) have a rich raspberry color–Wish you could taste this one–We compete with the wildlife for them. (MABurgess photo)
Plump pods of sweet velvet mesquite, full of pulp for making Bosque Butter. Every tree’s pods have different shapes and tastes. Be choosy!–collect from the trees with the plumpest and sweetest pods. (MABurgess photo)
Mesquite orchardist, miller of primo mesquite flour, died June3, 2017
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.)
Mesquite “Bosque Butter” and “Bosque Sauce” a la Tia Marta
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)
Washed pods, covered with drinking water, set in solar oven to cook (MABurgess photo)
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.
Cooked pods and reserved liquid being blendered
Check bottom of blender to remove all fiber from blade with each handful
Cooked, blendered pods draining thru cheesecloth in colander
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.
Squeezing cooked, blendered pods thru cheesecloth to extract pulpy liquid
After adding all other ingredients,, boil the sweet pulpy liquid
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.
Mesquite Bosque Butter on buckwheat pancake–delish!
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.