Mesquite trees are considered a nuisance in the southwest and even parts of the southeast of the US. These trees are found in the US from as far east as Alabama to Kansas and down to California and Texas. Farmers tend to hate them since the roots can dig as far as 200ft deep making them almost impossible to clear out of fields. The roots can also stretch as far as 50ft away from the tree horizontally. Being highly drought hardy they’re unlikely to die off easily. Oddly enough they are an incredibly versatile tree.
The Mesquite pods can be ground into a flour that’s gluten free. It can also be used to make jams and jellies. I’ll get to my adventures in making mesquite flour soon. For now know that mesquite flour is high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, and is rich in the amino acid lysine.
You don’t use the flour by itself, however, you mix it with other flours to make pancakes, muffins, cookies and more. Coyotes have been known to eat mesquite pods for as much as 80% of their diet. My dog loves them. When I was snapping the stems off of them I’d sometimes toss a few on the floor and he’d devour them.
My son was happily ‘helping’ me by chewing on a few we picked as well. You don’t eat mesquite pods raw! You can, however, chew on them like gum or tobacco leaves, spitting out the shells when the flavor fades. The flavor should be sweet and nutty though it can sometimes be chalky and bitter. Even trees growing next to each other can have different flavors.
The gum of the tree can also be harvested but I’m unfamiliar with how to do so.
The wood of a mesquite is a hardwood used in furniture and woodworking. Of course it’s also used for grilling! As a firewood it burns hot and lasts a long time.
I know it was once used for medicinal purposes but I honestly can’t say for what exactly. The list is so long I quickly lose count of what it does.
Depending on the breed a mesquite can live up to 200 years. There is one in Bahrain that’s supposedly 400 years old.
To learn more about this wondrous tree go here. The chances are you probably either live near some or know someone who does. There are versions all over the world!
On to My Adventure!
So why did I focus my home time on mesquite the last few weeks? It started at the farmer’s market. My husband and I ditched our son for a few hours and went shopping. He wanted to swing buy the Saturday market to see if his favorite Japanese Bakery was there. Sadly Hana wasn’t but there was a group handing out fliers offering free gardening classes on the following Saturday. That class happened to be on harvesting mesquite!
I immediately txted my friend who had mentioned where she lives there are 2o on her rental land. This group sells the flour for as much as 7$ for a 1/2lb! Well I though to myself why would I buy it when I can make it?
The military base I live on has tons of them; along roads, the BK parking lot, outside the CYS center, outside the gymnastics center, in the commissary parking lot… you get the idea. The MPs could careless if I pick it as long as I’m not trespassing or blocking a road. So I started picking.
That is a 5 gallon bucket about half full. I decided to keep it outside since they tend to have a larva inside the pods. When the larva morphs into a bug it burrows out and I didn’t want bugs in my house. Unfortunately the rains started back up after a few weeks lull and the flies came out… who decided they liked my pods.
So I decided that before I ground them into flour I would wash them in Dawn dishsoap then bake them at 170 (the lowest my gas oven goes) for an hour or two to make sure any fly poop was gone. Then after they were completely dehydrated I broke them into inch long pieces and tossed them into a coffee grinder. I also took the time to make sure none were rotted or showed signs of having bug activity on them. Those I tossed or fed to the dog. He didn’t mind sharing with the bugs!
I discovered that about one baking sheet makes approx 1/2 a cup of flour.
As of this post I have a cup of flour ready to use and still most of my bucket left to clean, bake and grind. For a step by step guide on how to make your own flour try here. For a tutorial on picking, processing, where to buy, where to go to get what you picked ground go here.