MESQUITE

Meals and Medicine

There are three species of Mesquite common to the Southwestern
desert: the Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), the Screwbean
Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens) and the Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis
velutina).

 

Mesquites may have single or multiple-branched stems, with
needle-sharp thorns up to 3 inches long growing on the younger
branches; the thorns are always straight. Their woody stems and
branches have bipinnately compound leaves (leaves with two or more
secondary veins, each having two rows of leaflets). Twigs
characteristically form zigzag patterns.

 

As a member of the leguminosae (legume) family, the Mesquite

restores nitrogen to the soil, which is essential for plant germination

and growth.

Mesquite Tree

Throughout the year, I lead herb walks in the Sedona, Arizona region. If you would be interested in joining us or would like to have me lead your group, contact me!

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They generally range from shrub size to a height of 10 to 15 feet, although
under favorable conditions, the Honey and Velvet Mesquites may reach
30 to 60 feet in height. Some Mesquites reportedly live for more than two
centuries.

 

Mesquites may have single or multiple-branched stems, with
needle-sharp thorns up to 3 inches long growing on the younger
branches; the thorns are always straight. Their woody stems and
branches have bipinnately compound leaves (leaves with two or more
secondary veins, each having two rows of leaflets). Twigs
characteristically form zigzag patterns.

They are deciduous trees, with leaves falling off in the winter. New leaves appear in the spring soon followed by five-petaled blossoms called "catkins" that are pale green or yellow in color.

 

These blossoms are shaped like spikes, each having ten stamens, which distinguishes them from other legume desert shrubs. These spring to summertime blossoms attract pollinators, with bees producing Mesquite honey that is valued for its flavor and nutritional qualities.

mesquite catkins
Mesquite Honey Pods
Mesquite Red Pods

The Mesquite produces an abundance of seedpods that are a nutritious food source for animals and humans. The pods ripen around mid-July through September.

 

The Honey Mesquite has smooth-surfaced leaflets while Velvet Mesquite has velvet-surfaced leaflets. The Screwbean Mesquite can be recognized by its tightly spiraled bean pods. Where the species overlap, sometimes the plants will hybridize making identification difficult.

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Native Americans used every part of the Mesquite tree. 

 

The wood from the trunk and branches were crafted into bows, arrows, mortars and home furnishings. Because the wood burns slowly and with less smoke, it was a favorite for home fires.

 

Thorns were used as sewing needles and to pierce skin for tattoos. The bark was used to make baskets, rope, fabric and medicine.

Leaves were used to make tea, eyewashes and to relieve headaches and stomach pain.

The gum was chewed for medicinal purposes, to mend pottery and as a base for body paint, pottery paint and hair dye.

The pods were ground into meal or flour and were a main staple in their diet.

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Collecting Mesquite

 

BARK AND SMALLER BRANCHES

Cut into small pieces when fresh, so they can be more easily powdered when dry.

 

GUM

When the weather is mild, it is less likely to see gum forming on the branches. However, in the spring or early summer, tear off some lower live branches from the main trunks. In three to four weeks, the plants will heal the scars, usually secreting gum along the edges of the wound.

 

BEAN PODS

Pods are ready to be harvested when they are yellow and begin falling off the tree, generally from late July through September.
If you need to pull the
pod, this is an indicator that the bean is unripe.

 

Individual trees produce a wide variation in sweetness; gently chew on a ripe pod to determine its sweetness.

 

Gather from the tree rather than the ground to avoid pods infested with insects, unless you can gather them directly after a windstorm. Beans that have been infested with insects will be light and hollow or have tiny holes in the pod. It is best to mill the pods as soon after harvesting as possible to avoid insect infestation.

 

Approximately five pounds of bean pods
will make one pound of Mesquite flour.

 

Avoid picking beans close to the roadways due to water runoff that may have been subjected to automobile fluids, exhaust fumes, herbicides and pesticides.

Constituents found in Mesquite Flour per 100 grams
Nutrient source: http://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk
 

Protein 16 g                         Fat 3.4 g
Fiber 36 g                             Energy 380 Calories

 

MINERALS

Barium 3.7 mg                    Boron 3.2 mg
Calcium 520 mg                 Chromium 0.12 mg
Cobalt 0.03 mg                   Copper 0.8 mg
Iron 18 mg                            Magnesium 140 mg
Manganese 2.3 mg            Molybdenum 0.05 mg
Phosphorus 215 mg          Potassium 1712 mg
Sodium 12 mg                     Sulfur 222 mg
Zinc 3.0 mg

 

LEAVES, PODS AND BARK:

5-hydroxytrptamine, tryptamine, tyramine, prosopineGum: L-arabinose and D-glucuronic acid

 

Mesquite is also known to be a rich source of the amino acid lysine.

 

Mesquite as a Food Source

Check out recipes at the top of the page!

 

Traditionally, beans (both pods and seeds) were dried then ground into a coarse meal. Water was added and the flour was formed into cakes that were not baked. Some cultures removed the seeds from the pods and ground them into flour from which bread was baked.

 

Flour made from the pods is both delicious and nutritious in a variety of dishes, but especially in baked goods. Mesquite flour can be used to replace toxic, bleached flours, aid in diabetes control and add nourishment to every meal. Mesquite takes about 4 to 6 hours to digest, unlike wheat that digests in 1 to 2 hours. As a result, hunger is delayed.

 

Mesquite's sweetness comes from fructose that does not require insulin to be metabolized, which is good news for diabetics. Because of its high fiber content (25%), the nutrients are absorbed which also assists in stabilizing blood sugar levels.

 

When used in baking, Mesquite flour is used in combination with other flours. Use about 1 cup of Mesquite flour for every 2 -3 cups of grain or rice flour. Mesquite flour is sweet; however, if you prefer to add more sweetener, I suggest using molasses or stevia in place of sugar.

 

Mesquite flour adds a sweet, nutty taste to breads, pancakes, muffins, corn bread, cakes and cookies. Mesquite can also be used to make syrup, jelly, tea and wine.

 

It has a sweet, rich, molasses-like flavor with a hint of caramel, which blends well into smoothies and other drinks, especially those made with cacao and maca.

 

Mesquite meal is a great thickener.

 

It can replace an egg in a recipe for pancakes, waffles or quick breads.

 

Try using it to replace half the sugar in a cookie recipe, or to sprinkle as a topping instead of brown sugar.

 

Add to salads, breakfast cereal and even your coffee with a pinch of mint leaves.

 

Flavor steaks, chicken, fish and pork by sprinkling it on before grilling or adding it to your breading mixture. You can also sprinkle mesquite on vegetables before grilling. It can be added to vegetable stir-fries, scrambled eggs, biscuits, breads, soups, even ice cream.

Medicinal Properties of Mesquite

 

Native American tribes have known of the medicinal properties of Mesquite for generations. Acting as an antacid, it can treat digestive problems. The roots, bark and leaves have antifungal, antibiotic, antimicrobial, astringent, antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. A powder or tea can be used to treat athlete's foot and general fungal infections. As a disinfectant wash or powder, it can be used for mild infections, stings, bites, sores and scrapes.

 

The tea of the powdered plant can be used as a restorative after bouts of dysentery, diarrhea,stomach ulcers,dyspepsia, stomach/intestinal distress and food poisoning. It also soothes stomach and intestinal pain, ulcers, colitis and hemorrhoids.

 

Leaves and pods can be made into an eyewash for inflammation, including pink eye. The Mesquite gum or resin is used as an eyewash to treat infection and irritation. It has several dermatological uses, including treatment for sunburn, sores, wounds, burns and chapped and raw skin.

 

Poultices from the leaves are used topically to relieve headaches and to treat red ant stings. The white inner bark is used as an intestinal antispasmodic. The bark is also helpful in stopping excessive menstrual bleeding and reducing fever.

 

Young branches, when ground and toasted, have been used to dissolve kidney stones. Mesquite gum is also used as a treatment for lice, cough, sore throat, mouth sores, laryngitis, stomach inflammation, fever reduction, painful teeth and gums.

 

For peptic ulcers, unlike the chalky substances usually prescribed, it will not affect digestion and nutrient absorption from the small intestine and can be taken for long periods of time. The gum can also be used as a basic restorative for intestinal mucosa in more serious diseases or when recuperating from abdominal surgery.

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Milling the Bean Pods

 

An industrial hammermill is the most efficient way to break up the pods and hard seeds to create Mesquite flour. In areas where mesquite grows, you may find a festival or local group that will mill your pods for you.

 

For those who desire to mill their own flour, I have created an affordable method using a blender that is time-consuming, but economical... and a lot easier than using a metate!

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Grinding Pods into Flour with a Blender

 

Lay out the beans on a table to dispel insects and let beans dry for several days until they are brittle. When they easily snap in two, this is an indicator that they are dry and ready to be milled.

 

Immediately, store the beans in a container with a sealed lid. We found that it is best to grind the beans as soon as possible to deter insect infestation.

 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED
blender, wooden spatula, funnel, sieve, bowl, glass jars to store flour

 

 

Mesquite can be gummy and clog up juicers and food processors. Hand grinding can be very tedious because the beans and pods are tough and fibrous. We found that a blender works well. If you have an expensive model, we suggest buying an inexpensive blender at a second-hand store to save wear and tear on your good blender.

 

The process is simple. After the beans have dried and are brittle, break the pods into 1-2" pieces. Place 1-2 handfuls of broken pieces into the blender; you can practice to see how much works best for you.

 Fill the blender 1/3 full.

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Blend the pods until they are well thrashed. Pour them into a finely meshed bowl-shaped sieve and gently stir with a wooden spoon, capturing the flour in a bowl. Place the remaining pod pieces back into the blender and repeat the process 1 or 2 more times until you are able to break the hard seeds, which is full of nutrients. That's all!

 

The work area can get quite dusty from the flour, so you may want to mill outside or remove anything from the counter that you don't want to clean afterwards.

 

You can then save the broken pieces to make tea, syrup or "milk."  To make mesquite "milk," simply add the "millings" to boiling water then simmer about two hours. Add about 1 part millings to 3 parts water. Play around with it until you get the desired consistency that you prefer.