I'm making mesquite flour again this year (the photos in this post were taken last summer) because our mesquites are loaded with beans: the product of an El Nino spring, with lots of rain and the hard work of bees and other pollinators. I harvested the beans from the ground (some had a few bugs, but a little animal protein doesn't hurt the flavor, IMO) and dried them in my solar oven: about 2 hours, temp around 180.
The next step--grinding--does take time. I do it the traditional way, using my small metate and mano. I've tried putting them in the blender (don't have a food processor), but since this is a traditional food, the traditional means of preparing it feels right to me. When I do this, it's almost magical, the feeling of deep connection to the native women of the Southwest, who fed their families with this food. We've lost that, I think, in our modern kitchens, borrowing exotic foods from around the globe, with little feeling of connection to the cultures that create such a rich framework of meaning around their foods.
The pods grind quickly but the seeds are hard and resistant. So--reading that the protein and sugars are mostly in the pods--I discard the unground bits of seeds. After an hour's work, I've produced a couple of cups of mesquite flour. Last year, I made a batch of muffins. This year, it's crackers. Here's the recipe:
Spicy Mesquite Crackers
1/4 cup mesquite flour
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
Heat oven to 400 F. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the shortening until fine and crumbly. Beat egg lightly and add to milk. Add milk/egg to dry ingredients and mix to make a stiff dough. Knead thoroughly (4-5 minutes) and then roll the dough very thin. Cut into squares or rounds and place on parchment paper or lightly greased cookie sheet. Prick with a fork and bake for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. (Watch--they'll scorch!) Cool on rack. Store in air-tight container.
Book notes. Launching The Darling Dahlias has been keeping me busy. I've started work on the final book in the Cottage Tales series, planning to finish by mid-October. You'll be hearing more from me about that. The Tale of Oat Cake Crag, due out in early September, just got a great review from Booklist--"Charming as always."
Garden stuff. Eating zukes, onions, green peppers, sweet potato greens, and the last of the tomatoes out of the garden. I need to do some work on the beds (I garden in raised beds) before it's time to get the fall garden in, around mid-August. Love being able to step into the garden for the supper veggies, or reach into the freezer, where I put them when we had too many to eat. And with a 35-mile round-trip drive to the nearest supermarket, what comes fresh from the garden every day is a real treat.
Reading note. What sets wilderness apart in the modern day is not that it's dangerous (it's almost certainly safer than any town or road) or that it's solitary (you can, so they say, be alone in a crowded room) or full of exotic animals (there are more at the zoo). it's that five miles out in the woods you can't buy anything--Bill McKibben