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Harvesting Mesquite Beans

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Mesquite flour was a main staple of the desert Indians. The flour provides protein, carbohydrates and calcium and sustained them during the winter and early spring until other desert foods were ready to be harvested. The flour is very sweet, and when used in recipes it is wise to decrease the sweetner in the recipe. You can substiture 1/3 mesquite flour of the flour called for in recipe. It is gluten free so must be mixed with other flours for such goodies as muffins, cakes and breads.

All species of mesquite are edible and grind into good flour. The seeds inside the pod are indigestible, but when separated from the pod and soaked overnight in water, make a lemony drink. How do I know which beans to use in recipe? I taste it first. I love chewing on a mesquite bean as I am harvesting. It has a sweet tast with a hint of lemon.

If you're looking to plant your own mesquites and are an APS customer, you can get free trees with the APS shade tree program.

The beans are ready to harvest around late June when then turn light tan colored. You can hear a rattling sound, like a rattlesnake when they are ready and they then come off the trees easily. If you have to pull hard on the bean to be release from the tree, it is not quite ready to harvest. I gather only the ones from the trees. I leave the bean that have fallen on the ground for all the critters. I watch javelinas, deer, jackrabbits, cottontails and quail delight in the feast. It is very important to roast the beans before storing and making into flour because the bruchid beetles live in the pods (the tiny holes you see in the pods are the hatched beetles who have drilled their way out. You can roast them in the oven, spread them on a table in the June heat for a few days or my favorite way is to make my truck into a solar oven: I put the beans in paper bags, put them on my dash then mount my windshield cover (so the beans are sandwhiched in between the windshield and the cover) . I leave my truck parked in the full sun for 2 days. I once put an oven thermometer in the bag of beans and in 2 hours it read 175 degrees. That's enough to cook the inside of a rump roast to well done, so it must kill off the beetles as well.

I make flour by placing the beans in my blender, pulse a few times which separates the inedible seeds from the pod, sift out the seeds (use later to make a lemony drink), then blend the pod until it makes a flour. I have also roasted and stored my beans in large buckets to wait for the Phoenix Permaculter Guild to offer their milling day in October. They will mill the whole beans into a wonderful flour for a very low cost

For more information on milling opportunities vistit: Valley Permaculture Alliance.

If you're looking to plant your own mesquites and are an APS customer, you can get free trees with the APS shade tree program.

Categories: Edible Desert