Cooking With Mesquite Beans

Desert Lil's Delicacies - A DesertUSA Food Feature

Mesquite, the most common shrub or small tree in the Desert Southwest, forms fruit of bean-like pods in the fall that have long been a nutritious food source to humans, wildlife and livestock.

For Native Americans of the desert regions, mesquite was not only relied on as a dietary staple, but as the most important economic plant of their culture. The Papago, Pima, Yuman, Cocopa, Mohave and Cahuilla peoples of Arizona and California utilized all parts of the mesquite:

  • Bark - basketry, pottery, fabrics and medicine
  • Trunk & Branches - firewood, in the manufacture of bows, arrows, mortars and furniture
  • Thorns - awls and for tattooing
  • Leaves - making tea, used medicinally as an eyewash and for head and stomach aches
  • Sap - as a snack, glue and dye.


But it was the mesquite pod, with its nutritious, bittersweet pulp, that provided the greatest benefit to indigenous desert peoples. They collected pods each fall, often eating many of them green from the trees. The rest they dried in the sun and stored in large baskets for future use.

Usually, the beans (pods and seeds) were ground into a coarse meal, then by adding water, were transformed into a gruel or a cake without cooking. Some cultures are said to have taken the seeds from the pods and ground them into a flour called pinole, from which a bread was actually baked.

The pods of all 3 common species of mesquite -- Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) -- are edible, although the Screwbean is less flavorful than the more widespread Honey Mesquite.

Add the authentic Southwest taste of mesquite to your meals by trying the following recipes, or simply sprinkle mesquite meal on meats and vegetables before grilling.


Mesquite Meal

Collect mesquite pods in September and October, discard the light or hollow ones and retain the full or heavier ones. Dry in the sun, or in the oven on low heat, until pods are crumbly, then grind in blender or food processor. This can be difficult because the seeds are much harder than the pods. While it easier to grind the pods alone, nutritional value is lost and the flavor is somewhat different.

(Native Americans used a metate, a flat stone with a concave surface on which nuts, grains or other food items can be ground using another stone.)

If you cannot, or do not want to dry and process mesquite meal yourself, commercial products like as those sold at the DesertUSA Store, are also available.


Mesquite Molasses

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 lb Mesquite pods (washed)

Place water and pods in a covered crock pot and cook at low heat for 12 hours. Strain, then reduce by boiling to the consistency of thin syrup. Cool and serve the thick, bold syrup on hotcakes or Texas Toast.

Mesquite Flour Tortillas

  • 1-1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup mesquite flour
  • 3 Tbs oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Mix together dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to stir in oil, then water, making a ball. Knead for 2 minutes, then cover and let sit 20 minutes. Divide into 12 balls, then flatten into 1/8" disks and cook in a dry skillet at medium temperature. When slightly brown (appx. 2 minutes), turn and cook the other side 1 minute. If you plan to use the cooked tortillas at a later time you can store them in a plastic bag.

Mesquite Cornbread

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup mesquite meal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs honey (or mesquite syrup)
  • 3 Tbs oil

Preheat oven to 340° F. Combine dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. Beat egg in small bowl and stir in wet ingredients. Mix wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and stir 1 minute. Pour into greased 8x8" pan and bake 20-25 minutes.


Related DesertUSA Pages
Desert Mesquite

Buy Mesquite Meal at DesertUSA's Store


Complete Index of Desert Lil's Delicacies

 

Share this page on Facebook:


DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)

The Desert Environment
The North American Deserts
Desert Geological Terms

SEARCH THIS SITE

 



The Saguaro Video
The Saguaro often begins life in the shelter of a "nurse" tree or shrub which can provide a shaded, moister habitat for the germination of life. The Saguaro grows very slowly -- perhaps an inch a year -- but to a great height, 15 to 50 feet.

The Desert Food ChainDesert Food Chain Video
A food chain constitutes a complex network of organisms, from plants to animals, through which energy, derived from the sun, flows in the form of organic matter and dissipates in the form of waste heat.

Prickly pear cactus Video
Prickly pear cactus are found in all of the deserts of the American Southwest. Most prickly pears have large spines on their stems and vary in height from less than a foot to 6 or 7 feet.




Hot temperatures in the desertAre you interested in the temperatures in the desert?

Click here to see current desert temperatures!

DesertUSA is a comprehensive resource about the North American deserts and Southwest destinations. Learn about desert biomes while you discover how desert plants and animals learn to adapt to the harsh desert environment. Find travel information about national parks, state parks, BLM land, and Southwest cities and towns located in or near the desert regions of the United States. Access maps and information about the Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert.



 
   
 
   
Copyright © 1996-2017 DesertUSA.com and Digital West Media, Inc. - -