Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Savoring Tucson's edible palo verde and mesquite

I took this great workshop with Jill Lorenzini of Desert Harvesters on foraging edible desert trees.  In addition to getting some great "how-to" advice, we got to taste some palo verde seeds (blanched for storing in the fridge), ironwood seeds and mesquite flour. Dan had to slap my hand away from taking too many of the yummy palo verde seeds.

Hey! I was hungry!

We've also eaten some off of our own backyard palo verde. They taste a lot like edamame, but you only eat the seeds because the pods are bitter. Unfortunately, you have to catch them while the pods are still green, or they get woody. If you ever feel wiped out while hiking, grab a handful for a quick protein boost! (Pick 'em right off of the tree.) 

No, that's not a "man purse."
My sweetie kindly carried my purse when I was wiped out by the summer sun.
Looks good on him though. Don't ya think? 
I have to apologize that I have been so caught up in my desktop activism that I didn't get this up until the palo verde pods had browned and it was the day before Desert Harvester's annual mesquite milling. Maybe you can go out and pick some today - if you can stand the 110 degree heat better than I can! A facebook friend said it was so hot that the mesquite pods were popping like corn!  

The tricky thing about harvesting mesquite is that you have to pick them when they are brown, but BEFORE they fall on the ground. So you need good timing. That's why I would recommend growing some of these drought tolerant desert trees in your own personal food forest. The mesquite only require watering until established. We have two volunteer palo verdes that we never watered at all! 

 Be sure to pick pods off of the tree, not from the ground.
Desert Harvesters suggests that you use a five gallon food grade container to put the pods in as you pick. Then you can store them right in that sealed container. (Our paper bags were a pain because they kept ripping.) You will want to sample a pod from the tree (suck on it) to see if it tastes good before harvesting the whole tree. Taste can vary from tree to tree. You can tell the sweet ones because the ants like them too. Pods ready to harvest will come off with a firm tug. You shouldn't have to wrestle with them.

Dan picked more than me. No fair! He's taller!
Be sure there is no moisture before you store the pods in the sealed container. With mesquite, it's the pods (not the seeds) that will be ground up into flour.  Go to the Desert Harvesters website for their best practices.

We managed to pick about 5 gallons of mesquite pods. Thanks for the great advice, Jill! We got our pods milled at the 15th ANNUAL MESQUITE MILLING & FIESTA (Pre-Monsoon), and enjoyed some yummy mesquite pancakes!*

• Taste pods before you harvest (only pick ones that taste good - every tree has its own flavor)
• Harvest before the rains (to avoid invisible molds)
• Harvest from tree, not ground (keep it clean)
• Keep pods dry (should snap in two when you try to bend pod)
• Mill pods the same season you harvest them (fresh is best)

See for more on harvesting, preparing for milling, other events, and their cookbook "Eat Mesquite and More".

Have your dry, ripe, mesquite pods milled into nutritious, delicious flour for you and your family to enjoy.  Pods for milling must be clean, dry, and free of mold/fungus, stones, leaves, and other debris.

Cost: $3/gallon of whole pods, with a minimum of $10. (A bargain since mesquite flour sells for $17 a pound at the store.)

Bring a closed container for your flour. All your containers must be marked with your name, email and phone number so we can get in contact with you; especially if your pods are being milled at Will-call.

Velvet Mesquite - Arizona Tree Profiles:

Enjoying our first time foraging for mesquite pods!
How did we do, Jill?

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