Mesquite Season in the Hill Country

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.

Mesquite Muffins

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.

21 comments on “Mesquite Season in the Hill Country

  1. Hi Susan, I’ve been a fan for years, since I discovered The China Bayles series and then The
    Dahlias. Someone mentioned comfortable reading and that’s appealing to me, but also, the connection to plants, food, fibers and Ruby’s Crystal Cave. I admit I pepper my reading with works of more depth. Now reading Where the Crawdads Sing, but when I see something new by you it goes on my reading list. Your photography on fb is stunning and wonder if you’ve thought of introducing an artist into your group of characters, as painting with watercolors is something I enjoy. I’m awed by your prolific writing and needlepoint skills. Being 75, I find myself needing a nap and quieter activities. Thank you for sharing more about your life, share as much as you’re comfortable, because it makes you more real. An avid fan, Joan

    • Thanks for the suggestion about the artist, Joan–I’ll think about that. I agree: there’s a place for reading that fits us comfortably. But there’s also a place for reading that’s uncomfortable, that stretches us, that’s challenging in some important ways. We may not reach for that kind of book very often, but we need to.

  2. Over the last couple of years, your China Bayles mysteries have become what I read when I want comfort. From time to time, the world of Pecan Springs is preferable to my own. I’ve read them all except A Plain Vanilla Murder, and then…
    Will there be more?

    Thank you so much

    • Thank you, April! Re: the world of Pecan Springs. Ruby’s novella trilogy expands that world, and the Enterprise novella trilogy I’m currently working on expands it in a different direction. Next up in novel-length: a prequel to the series, back in the day before Thyme & Seasons.

  3. Have enjoyed all your China Bayles books so much , also your monthly emails but really like the new format. Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks so much

  4. Thank you for changing the background to be less busy behind the print. It took me a couple of posts to notice that it wasn’t an aberration but a real change. What do the muffins taste like, compared to regular flour muffins?

    • You’re welcome, Pat. Were you one of the people who wrote to me about it? I like those flowers (nightshades) and didn’t have any problem with the background. But it turned out to be easy to fix. Mesquite flour has quite a bit of natural sugars so it’s sweet and a bit nutty. Others say it’s like molasses and hazelnut. The chipotles mask that, though.

  5. I so enjoy your posts, entertaining and informative.
    Have you read or heard the book “All That Remains”. It is by Sue Black, forensic anthropologist and anatomist from Scotland.

  6. Wow, I bet these taste really, really good! Mmmmm, but yes, it looks like a lot of work to grind those beans into flour.

  7. As a Texan and homeowner in Fort Worth I fought the thorny mesquite in our side yard for years. I would have appreciated it more if I had known of it’s history and probably would have tried out a recipe like the one you posted. Too late now. House sold long ago.

    • I think we would all enjoy “our” trees more if we knew their stories. But yes, mesquite thorns are a problem. Bill gets flat tires on the ranch truck when he drives across the pastures: mesquite thorns!

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