June 24: mesquite – the forbidden legume

2016/06/24 deej 0

Prosopis albaAlthough mesquite (Prosopis species) are prohibited in Australia (mesquite is a declared weed in all states), because they can form thorny thickets which could pose problems for livestock farmers and because their thorns can puncture tyres, they do provide an excellent food source. Mequite meal, made by grinding up the pods and seeds, contains 10 – 17% protein, and is high in lysine.

 

Prosopis pubescens flowerMost mesquite species (there are around 40 of them) are small trees or large shrubs, native to desert and xeric regions of north and central America. They may have one or multiple trunks, and the leaves are light green to blue-ish green. Some are evergreen, while others are deciduous. Many species are thorny, although not all. Spikes of small greenish, cream or yellow flowers form in spring and summer. Extended flowering may occur August-December, with pod formation October-March. The pod is flat and 5-20cm long, compressed, straight to curved, smooth or with slight restrictions between the seeds. Ripe pods are yellow, purple, or yellow with purple streaks and patches. The flat seeds are oval or elliptical 2.5-7mm long by 2-3mm wide, each enclosed in a flattened fibrous case, and surrounded by sweet pulp.

Prosopis glandulosa seed podOnce the pod is dry the whole pod is edible and can be ground into flour and made into bread. Mesquite pods were widely used in the past by the indigenous peoples of North and Central America where mesquite trees grow, and are still used as a staple food by many people in Mexico. Mesquite meal or mesquite flour can be used to make bread, or it can be added to soups and stews, casseroles, and sauces. It can also be used in pie crusts, used in vegetable and meat dishes, or sprinkled over fruit desserts, puddings or ice-cream.

 

Prosopis glandulosa bark

Like carob and wattleseed, mesquite has no gluten (or gluten-like components), so in baked goods it gives crumbly rather than chewy texture. It is also strongly flavoured, so is best used in combination with a milder flavoured flour (such as wheat, millet, or rice flour, ground almonds, or cornmeal) or as a flavouring accent. Recipes calling for mesquite can use wattleseed instead, and vice versa.

 


 

Mesquite Teacake

Based on recipe from Desert USA, by Martha Darancou: http://www.desertusa.com/lil/mesquite.html

 

¾ cup mesquite meal, finely ground

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup sugar or honey

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup mashed or stewed fruit, e.g. banana, cooked pear, cooked plums *

½ cup milk

2 eggs

(optional) ¼ cup chopped nuts

 

* Avoid very watery fruits, such as melon, passionfruit, or prickly pear. For 1 cup of mashed fruit, use about 2 large bananas, 3 pears, 4 – 6 plums, ..

 

Instructions

  • Combine the mesquite meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Separately, mix the sugar or honey, fruit, oil, milk and eggs.
  • Combine the fruit mixture and the flour mixture, mixing thoroughly.
  • Stir in the nuts.
  • Pour into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 180 degrees C for about an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  • Cool for ten minutes before removing from the loaf pan.

 


Prosopis glandulosa foliage

Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons:

June 22: wattleseed pancakes

2016/06/22 deej 0

Of the many species of wattle native to Australia, several produce seeds which are suitable for use as human food. Edible wattleseed has rich nutty, chocolate and roasted coffee flavours, and is well suited to both sweet and savoury uses.

 

Australian aboriginal peoples ground dried wattle seeds to form a flour, which was then baked into damper (traditional campfire bread). The green seeds of some wattle species were also eaten, cooked and consumed as a green vegetable like peas or fresh beans. Wattle seeds have also been used as food in some areas in West Africa, where the wattle trees were introduced to provide a fast growing tree for firewood and windbreaks.

 

Laboratory testing and human dietary trials have shown that wattle seeds are highly nutritious and safe to eat as a base or staple foodstuff. Nutritional analysis shows an average protein content of approximately 26%, an average available carbohydrate content of 26%, and a fibre content of around 32%. Wattle seeds also have a low glycaemic index, as their starch content is digested and absorbed slowly, although their energy content is high (approx. 1480 kJ per 100g). The seeds can be stored for up to a year, or sometimes longer, before being ground, with no perceptible deterioration in flavour or food quality.

 

The main species used are Mulga wattle (Acacia aneura), Elegant Wattle (Acacia victoriae), Silver Wattle (Acacia retinodes), Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia var. sophorae), and the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha). Coles Wattle (Acacia colei) is widely used in West Africa. Coastal Wattle is described as having a rich, nutty flavour, while the Elegant Wattle has a darker, more coffee and chocolate flavour. All of these species grow happily across a range of Australian dryland environments, and will thrive on 400 – 800 mm rainfall per year, in well drained soils. The Coastal Wattle and Elegant Wattle tend towards a shrub form, growing 3 – 5 m tall and branching lower towards the ground; Mulga may do the same, or may grow as a tree, depending on the environment. The otehr species grow as small trees, 6 – 10 m in height.

 

Wattleseed is often used as a flavouring agent for bread, ice-creams, pastries, cream, pancakes, biscuits, or cakes. Adding up to 1 tablespoon of ground wattleseed to baking, or 1 – 2 teaspoons to ice-cream or cream gives an elegantly aromatic effect. Ground wattle seed can, however, also be used in place of ground sorghum, millet flour, or other gluten free flours in baking; this will give a richer wattleseed flavour to the end product.

 


 

Gluten Free Wattleseed Pancakes

 

2 cups finely ground wattleseed (or 1 cup ground wattleseed and 1 cup millet flour)

1 – 2 cups lukewarm water

¼ cup milk

(optional) 1 egg

1 – 2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)

pinch of salt

oil for frying

 

Instructions

  • Combine the milk and warm water. If using egg, beat the egg in with the water and milk.
  • Sift the ground wattleseed into a bowl and gradually pour in the warm water, mixing well as you do so, to form a smooth batter. If the ground wattleseed is not fine enough to sift, you may wish to grind it more finely with a mortar and pestle – otherwise thepancakes come out with a gritty texture instead of a smooth crisp finish.
  • Set aside and rest the batter in a cool place for 1 – 4 hours.
  • Beat the batter with a wooden spoon (do not whisk), while heating a pan or skillet.
  • Pour or ladle batter into the pan to make a saucer-sized pancake (or several smaller pancakes) and cook until crisp. You can turn it once if desired, but it is not essential. The pan or skillet should be quite hot; the batter will stick if the pan is not hot enough.
  • Serve with honey, jam, or fruit chutney. These pancakes are reminiscent of dark, nutty rye bread.

 

NOTE: For a vegan version of these pancakes, omit the egg and replace the milk with orange juice.

 

 


 

Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons: