A friend and Cooking Tip reader who recently moved to Texas sent me some information about mesquite trees and possible culinary uses. I have written another Cooking Tip on Foraging but it did not include anything about Mesquite Since it is an interesting tree, I decided to make it the subject of this Cooking Tip. As with any type of foraging, consult an expert before consuming anything you forage.
Mesquite trees commonly grow in the southwest part of the US. They have long been used by native Americans for food, beverages and medicine as well as non-culinary purposes. Long, green pods emerge in the Spring that turn to tan/reddish and become dry and brittle as they ripen.
Different parts of the tree are used for different purposes. The pods are said to be very sweet due to the presence of fructose. This type of sugar is said to have a low glycemic index as well as not requiring insulin to process.
One of the uses that many of us have probably heard of is as a type of smoke flavoring. It became the wood of choice for grilling in the 1980s.
The pods/seeds can be ground into meal that can be used as a type of gluten-free flour with a significant amount of protein and fiber. The flavor is described as sweet and nutty. It can be used in baking muffins, pancakes, tortillas and bread. Chefs will also add it to soups and sauces as well as meat and veggie dishes. Although you may have to use an online source, you can purchase commercially made mesquite flour.
The flowers can be collected and brewed as a tea to treat stomach aches or as an appetite stimulant. The beans can also be roasted and ground to make a type of coffee.
There is a clear sap that can be collected from mesquite trees. The sap is sweet and edible and has been used in a medicinal way for stomach aches or sore throats. There is also a black-colored sap that has been used in preparations to treat male pattern baldness, as an antiseptic wash and for soothing chapped lips and sunburns.
Some say the roots can be chewed to treat toothaches.
There you go – if you are into foraging and you are live in an area with mesquite trees, you may want to seek out an expert and give it a try. If you do, let me know!