Monthly Archives: November 2012

Mesquite: Dry and Wet

Desert Harvesters volunteers sort mesquite pods for twigs and moldy pods.

Last weekend Desert Harvesters held their last mesquite milling of the season in Tucson.  Dozens of folks lined up with their buckets of pods to have them ground into silky mesquite meal.  To protect their hammermills and ensure everyone gets at healthy product, volunteers check each bucket of pods before they are dumped in the mill to take out any twigs or moldy pods.

Mesquite pods go in the hammermill.

However, if you collected pods this year and didn’t get to the grinding, all is not lost.  You can still make some delicious foods using the wet method.  To do that,  put several handsful of pods into a pot, cover them with water and simmer them for about 45 minutes or until they are very soft.

Mesquite pods boiled until soft.

Now the fun part comes.  Afte the pods are cool, plunge your hands into the mass and wring and tear until all the good sweetness is released into the water.

Wring, tear and squish until the sweetness is released from the fiber.

 

When you have nothing but fiber and sweet broth, strain until you have….

….this broth.

Now you can use this in any number of delicious treats.  I love to make Mesquite Pumpkin Pudding for Thanksgiving, using mesquite broth and a little mesquite meal and honey as the sweetening.  You can put it in a bowl or fancy it up like this:

In a previous post I wrote about using mesquite broth to make a coffee drink.  Include your mesquite broth with some coffee and milk and top with whipped cream.  Yum!  I’ll repeat the photo here because it is so beautiful.

It isn’t hard to invent ways to use mesquite broth. For inspiration and other recipes using mesquite broth, take a look at my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.


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Nopalpalooza: Phoenix Celebrates Cactus

Nopalpalooza shopping bag

Last week Phoenix veggie lovers and the veggie-curious came out for the Nopalpalooza to celebrate the launch of a new shopping bag featuring cactus pads.  The bag is the second in a series of veggie-themed bags from HipVeggies, the brainchild of Valley of the Sun dietitian Monika Woolsey.  The Phoenix New Times did a piece on her venture that you can read here.

The bag was designed by Phoenix graphic artist Joe Ray and some of the profits from the sales go to the Desert Mission Food Bank.  Monika is so into nopales that she even commissioned a Phoenix baker to make several dozen nopal cookies (just sugar cookies, but very cute.)

I was there, showing people how easy it is to clean nopales and cook them.  Also attending was a delegation from Ramona Farms with some delicious tepary bean dishes.

Steve Dunker and Steve Markt with their mesquite granola at the Nopalpalooza.

There to get feedback for their new venture of making commercial products from mesquite meal were Steve Dunker and Steve Markt.  Markt recently graduated from commercial baking school and had brought some mesquite granola and mesquite-based powerbars to pass out. He hoped to get feedback as he designs his product line.  He is purchasing his mesquite from Mike Moody, who is growing a mesquite plantation over by the Colorado River.

And speaking of mesquite, Tucsonans get ready for the Desert Harvesters (www.desertharvesters.org) annual mesquite grinding.  They will have their hammermill at the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market at El Mercado on West Congress on November 15 beginning at 3 p.m.  On November 18 they will move to the  Dunbar-Spring community garden beginning at 9 a.m. They’ve already been to Phoenix and Oracle with their hammermill and have conducted a couple of events in Tucson.  So if you still haven’t had your pods ground into silky delicious meal, this is your last chance this year.  In conjuction with the grinding, there will be a bake sale of fabulous mesquite-based goodies with the profits going to support Desert Harvesters. I’m still trying to decide what to take — ginger mesquite cookies? mesquite banana cake?  Or sweet, crumbly scones?  Come out and see!

And if you have your mesquite meal and are wondering about some ideas for what to do with it, check out my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.  For inspiration and directions on what wild plants are available in what season, watch a short video here.