In Arizona and the desert southwest we have some incredible native things to eat. Prickly pears, nopalitos, saguaro cactus fruit, ironwood and palo verde beans and the growing more popular every day mesquite bean. In a nutshell, the mesquite bean is high in protein and fiber, harvestable throughout the summer, easy to pick and preserve for the highly anticipated mesquite bean millings in late fall.

The height of mesquite (and carob for those that are adventurous) bean picking is upon us. Woohoo. Mesquite is native to the deserts southwest. We have been watching, and mesquite beans are thick in the trees and some are ready to harvest now. It is best to get your beans picked before the monsoons hit. Additionally, the beans need to be picked from the trees when the beans are dry. So it is a tight window to get them before they hit the ground. The milling will come in the fall so we have some things to consider between now and then.

Milling is a process by which the mesquite beans are pulverized into a protein rich powder very similar to flour. We mill the entire bean – the brown husks where the flavor is and the hard seeds inside which are protein rich. Mesquite is very tasty and can be used for cookies, breads, breading for meats, as a seasoning and in drinks like protein powder. It is really good stuff and once you are hooked you won’t want to miss a year.

Start gathering your mesquite beans now. Once collected there is a process by which you preserve the beans until the milling on Oct 31st. We have been asked why we wait until fall…simply put, there is too much moisture in the air until after the monsoons. Too much humidity = gummed up hammermill.

See mothernature@phoenixpermaculture.net for more information on harvesting and milling the beans.

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