Friday, October 7, 2011

Mesquite Flour

Mesquite Flour
For Vegan Mofo, I wanted to highlight something native, something a little more unique. And I've been wanting to try mesquite flour for quite some time. In fact, the unopened box sitting in my cupboard has been there for a couple of months now. The summer heat killed all desire to cook, but now that the weather is finally cooperating, I have cooking urges to fulfill. First, I thought I'd tell you a little about mesquite flour and then tomorrow I'll do a little recipe round-up, so we can figure out what to do with it.

Mesquite flour is gluten free, low glycemic, and full of protein, without being high in calories or full of fat. Nice!

Mesquite flour or mesquite meal is made from the finely ground up bean pods of the mesquite tree, which grows abundantly here in Phoenix and throughout the southwest, whereas the mesquite flavoring most people know comes from the bark of the tree. Mesquite trees are often found in the yards of Phoenicians and most people have no idea they are sitting on a mesquite goldmine. The problem is that mesquite pods aren't the easiest to grind into flour, as a hammermill works far better than a food processor, and they are easily susceptible to bug infestations or mold.

You have options though, you can fork over the dough to buy a bag of mesquite flour or you can harvest your own pods and track down one of the traveling hammermills. Whole Foods sells mesquite flour in both the gluten-free and raw snack sections of the store.  Two of their products are pictured in this post. I have no idea why they are importing it from Peru when surely someone processes it locally?? If you are lucky you might be able to find it in bulk in health food stores, but I don't know of any local options. Of course, you can also find it online. It's not particularly cheap, so thankfully a little goes a long way.

More Mesquite Powder/Flour
For DIYers, Desert Harvesters, based in Tucson, brings their hammermills to the Phoenix area as well as Tucson and you can have their help in the milling process. They offer their services seasonally, so you have to pay attention to the schedule. In fact, they have two Phoenix milling dates next weekend, October 15 & 16. Check out the calendar for more dates and details. And here are some of their harvesting and storing tips.

A few places like the Desert Botanical Garden and a couple state parks (ex. Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Oracle State Park), occasionally offer classes on utilizing mesquite, how to process it and what to do with it. The classes are usually offered early in the summer, however, before the first mesquite pod harvest. We've already missed those, so keep an eye out for next year or check out the how-to videos online (one is below).

I don't know a lot of people using mesquite flour, but I do know Treehouse Bakery sometimes sells baked goods with mesquite flour at the Phoenix Public Market.

Lastly, here's a little video talking more about harvesting the mesquite pods from one of the Desert Harvesters himself. Mesquite stuff starts at 2:35 in case you want to skip ahead.

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