For hundreds of years, Native Americans in the Southwest Desert have been eating the beans of the mesquite tree. Last summer, we decided to give them a try with some of our own mesquite beans milled into flour. We harvested fifteen gallons of beans from mesquite trees that abound on our land, dried them, and milled them into flour. We spent about two hours picking ripe beans from the trees around the shop and the orchard perimeter. Then we dried them about six weeks on a screen spread on sawhorses in the shop.
Friends of ours, Dan and Roxanna, have recently purchased a hammer mill for processing mesquite beans. They offer a brief but excellent training on picking and drying mesquite beans.
It takes a hammer mill to efficiently mill mesquite beans because they are seriously hard. Dan and Roxanna offer custom milling for people like us who pay them a comparatively small fee for turning our mesquite beans into tasty and healthy flour. They also process beans harvested and sold to them by neighbors. The flour is available for sale at local farmers markets.
After we picked and dried our beans, we brought them to the local community harvest festival where Dan and Roxanna had set up their hammer mill. We gathered around the sorting screen and culled stems and other foreign matter that would spoil the flour.
Their son, Justin, operated the mill and bagged up the resulting flour. We came home with over ten pounds of sweet, slightly nutty, golden mesquite flour. The taste and nutrition available in the flour makes the work well worthwhile, however.
This remarkable native flour has no gluten, a low glycemic index, high protein content, and all kinds of essential vitamins and minerals.Because there is no gluten, you will want to limit the percentage of mesquite flour to about 25% of the required flour. For muffins, cookies, and great yeast-raised pancakes, we use 75% organic whole wheat flour and 25% mesquite flour. There are recipes available for cookies using 100% mesquite flour. While they are delicious, they are also expensive and have only local accessibility though our local health food store. But used in any good recipe they offer great flavor and a super nutritious result.
This morning, I tried out Barbara’s recipe for Mesquite Pancakes. I’ll soon be on deck for B-n-B guest cooking for a few days while Barbara is out of state and I wanted a practice run. The results were incredible. I credit the quality of the mesquite flour and the recipe. I just put the stuff together.
Barbara’s Mesquite Pancakes
Honey (or sugar) – I used a bit less than 3 tablespoons of honey
Dry Yeast – 2 level teaspoons
1 1/2 cups milk (we use soymilk and it’s great)
1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil
1/2 cup Mesquite flour - (harvested from our trees and milled by a neighbor)
1/2 Wheat Germ (we use raw, but roasted is fine – make sure it’s fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – you’ll use 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups
1/2 cup warm water
Wake the yeast by measuring 1/2 cup warm water (NOT too hot) into a large bowl (at least three quarts) and adding 1/2 tsp honey and 2 tsp yeast. Stir to dissolve the honey and set aside until mixture is bubbly.
While the yeast is waking up, measure out the remaining ingredients in separate containers – one for wet and one for dry.
In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup milk or soymilk (warmed slightly), 2 eggs, 1/3 c oil, 2 T honey. Mix ingredients to break up the eggs and begin the blending process.
In a separate bowl, combine 1 c whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 c wheat germ, 1/2 cup mesquite flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend with a whisk.
When the yeast is awake, blend liquid and dry ingredients in the bowl containing the yeast until thoroughly mixed. Add flour (up to 1/2 cup) a bit at a time until the batter is thickened to your preference.
Place the bowl of batter in a sink filled about 2 inches deep with hot water to encourage rising. Cover with a plate and allow batter to rise until bubbly and increased in volume. Be patient, this could take a half hour or so. Don’t stir down!
Cook in your favorite greased pancake griddle or frying pan. Turn once when bubbles are breaking and brown on the bottom.
Serve with honey, syrup, fruit compote, applesauce, or your favorite preserves. Soooo good!