Mesquite trees are found in northern Mexico throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, and as far north as southern Kansas, west to the Colorado Desert in California, and east to parts of Texas
These deciduous trees can reach a height of 20 to 30 ft although in most of their range they are shrub size. They have narrow leaves 2.0 to 3.0 inches long. Twigs have a characteristic zigzag form.
The bean pods of the mesquite can be dried and ground into Mesquite flour, adding a sweet, nutty taste to breads, or used to make jelly.
The Native Americans made a type of flat bread from mesquite flour. If you want it to rise, the mesquite bean flour is used in combination with other flours. Substitute ¼ cup-to-½ cup mesquite flour in each cup of grain flour. Mesquite bean flour can be used in breads, pancakes, muffins, cakes and even cookies. Mesquite powder is also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, and is rich in the amino acid lysine.
It is ill advised to eat the beans raw, the bean contains small amounts of an anti-nutrition protein, a trypsin inhibitor that interferes with the enzymes that convert proteins into amino acids. Cooking eliminates the problem.
Harvesting mesquite beans
They normally can be harvested between June and September. You can tell if the pod is ripe. It should snap when you break it and vary in color from light brown to red or purple.
The best trees will produce a sweet tasting pod. You can pick the pods by hand or you can spread a tarp on the ground and gently shake the limbs. The ripe pods should fall onto the tarp.
Don’t pick up pods of the ground; they can be contaminated by mold and animal feces. Pods with black mold on them should be discarded. The safest method is to wash all the pods you have collected in a solution of one-tablespoon bleach with five gallons of water. Then rinse them in clean water and spread out to thoroughly dry. Store the dry pods in a clean covered container.
You can then grind your pods into a powder as needed, using a blender or hand grinder. If you have a fine strainer run the flour through it to bet the fibers out. The flour is now ready to use.