Arizona: Mesquite foraging

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    Here is another highly nutritious food source that can be easily foraged: Mesquite “beans”. Gather the pods when they become “dry” and come off the tree easily without having to pull much (but don’t pick up the ones that have already fallen on the ground, unless you’re REALLY desperate, as you want to avoid dirt/insects that the fallen pods may have picked up). Once you have gathered the pods, make sure that they have dried thoroughly (you can lay them on a clean cloth in the sun, or dry them in an oven on low, or in a dehydrator or “solar oven”. Once the beans are thoroughly dry, you can store them for several months until needed. To use, grind them pods and all (warning: the seeds inside are hard as rocks, so it is best to use a “hammer” type mill–other types tend to get torn up by the seeds. Around here, they have a community “grinding day” at the farmers market at the beginning of October–you bring your mesquite “beans” and they grind them with a big “hammer” type mill. Or, you could always pound them with rocks….)

    The resulting mesquite “flour” is slightly sweet tasting, and can be used to bake a variety of tasty baked goods, from pie crusts and cookies to breads, pancakes, etc. The only thing with the mesquite flour is that it lacks gluten (great for folks with gluten intolerance), so unless you add regular flour or gluten, the baked goods tend to be crumbly. (But yummy!)

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