It’s mesquite bean season here at Meadow Knoll, and as usual, our honey mesquite trees are loaded. These were a prized native food, rich in plant protein, calcium. potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. The beans were usually ground into flour and baked as a flat cake or mixed with venison and smoked or dried as a jerky. They were even brewed into a potent drink.
The nomadic Tonkawa Indian women and children who traveled across this landscape would have hurried to gather the fallen beans before the deer and raccoons got them/ They ground them into a coarse meal, probably using a couple of handy stones. More settled families would have a metate, the traditional grinding tool of Mezoamerican food preparation.
Grinding the beans in the traditional way (that’s my metate) produces a soft, slightly gritty flour but takes a heckuva lot of time. I’ve tried a food processor, but didn’t much like the results–the bean hulls didn’t get fully processed and you end up with a mouthful of grit–not what we modern Americans are used to. So I used the metate and produced enough flour for a batch of muffins.
If you’re interested in the quirks of this flour, here’s a post from somebody who’s been working with it. And here’s the recipe. Bill likes chipotle chiles, so I add them for extra flavor.
2/3 cup mesquite bean flour (you can buy this online)
1 1/3 cups sifted self-rising flour (or substitute all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon chipotle chiles in adobo sauce finely chopped
Mix the flours. Combine egg, oil, and milk and mix well. Add liquid mixture to dry flours and stir just until moistened. (Don’t overbeat–a few lumps are okay.) Stir in chiles. Fill 12 well-greased muffin cups with batter two-thirds full. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F. Cool slightly before removing from pan.
And here are the muffins–really, really, really made from scratch.