Yes, it’s that time again. The mesquite pods are nice and tan, hanging from the trees and dropping to the ground. If you want to have some pods to grind into meal in the fall, you’ve got to gather them now. (There may be another smaller harvest in the fall depending on the monsoons this year.)
Our friends at Desert Harvesters have been doing research on the best way to harvest and store your pods between now and grinding. Here is their advice:
Harvest BEFORE the first rain of the summer, or long after the rainy season in the dry conditions of late summer or fall. Rain on mature or nearly mature pods can cause a common soil fungus to grow on mesquite pods and many other crops. However, pods that were collected last year before the monsoons tested safe to eat. Avoiding visible mold DOES NOT insure safe pods. Dry the pods well before storage, and do NOT wash the pods.
If you dry your pods and store them in a nice dry place, perhaps your shed, you’ll come back in a couple of months and find them full of little holes. We used to think that they had been infested. Nope. The eggs for the bruchid beetles were laid on the mesquite flowers and the beetles are eating their way out. Soo… here are the options. Freeze the pods and kill the beetles — at whatever stage they are. Or let them eat their way out, leaving behind the odd antenna or leg. Hey, it’s all protein.
You’ll want to harvest from the native mesquite trees. I planted South American mesquites on my tree lawn years ago and one of them produces the most gorgeous fat pods that look truly delicious. But, alas, they taste chalky so I just have to rake them up and toss them in the garbage. Kills me — wish I had planted natives.
If you’d like to read more about mesquite, check out Jacqueline Soule’s blog on mesquite here.
Get ready for prickly pear and mesquite season with some fabulous recipes for the bounty you have gathered. Check out my cookbooks Cooking the Wild Southwest and The Prickly Pear Cookbook for delicious and inspiring ways to use these delicious wild treats.