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  • Writer's picturekaydee777

Velvet or honey?

I share this little patch of Chihuahuan desert with mesquite trees. I don't know whether they are Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) or Velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina). Probably the former, but I'm not really good at the subtleties of botanical classification.

Whatever the exact variety, the mesquite and it's offspring are the anchors in a little wild grove (or guild) of mostly native plants on the western street edge which ends in a fire hydrant. I attempt to keep the area around the hydrant clear with varying degrees of diligence. This summer city workers, in their wisdom, took powerful weed whackers to the carefully curated stone compass marking the sun's noonday zenith on equinoxes and solstices, which I had constructed around the hydrant, over a period of four years. Needless to say the small stones were scattered to the four directions. Then somebody up the street, without discussion, used the endpoint rocks to weigh down their cardboard yard sale directional sign. Such are the challenges to creating nice things in semi public spaces. Sigh.

However, for the most part, hydrant corner excepted, the grove remains untouched by others. The area has become the favourite hangout of a whole conference of birds, and pesky predatorial neighbourhood cats. I have also, on a few rare occasions, seen a fox and a coyote emerge (not together) from the undergrowth to drink from the on-ground water bowl kept just inside the property line.

For several months now, I have been drying a batch of mesquite pods harvested from this grove. One of the positive things about this very dry past summer is that there was little chance of the pods being infected with aflatoxin, making it a good year for gathering mesquite for flour.

Thinking the pods must be dry enough, this week I finally got around to grinding them using a food processor. It is quite a task. There is a stickiness which gums things up. Some of the dried beans are seriously hard. How the indigenous peoples managed to grind mesquite pods with stone metates is a constant source of wonder and admiration.

I grind and sift, grind and sift, until I'm tired of the process and consign the remaining unground material to the compost.

Three cups of this sweet tasting flour has been added to the pantry. Mesquite pancakes are a particular favourite of mine, but today I made a lovely batch of jalapeño garlic scones with a few tablespoons of mesquite added to the soft white wheat flour which I imported from a family farm in the Palouse in eastern Washington state, just for baking scones (which people here call biscuits).

I had grown tired of baking hard, heavy apologies for scones, so I deployed librarian mode, did some research. I learned that the difficult-to-find soft white wheat grain is shorter, plumper and has more delicate gluten (and is less genetically modified) than the more common hard wheat grains. When ground into flour, soft white wheat is one of the secrets to beautifully flakey scones (aka biscuits but not by me). Keeping things chilled is another, but since it's winter here and my kitchen is always colder than the witch's proverbial body part, that piece isn't a problem.

There's science to it, (after all baking is 99% chemistry) but I'll skip to the part where today's batch of scones, made using mostly soft white wheat flour, turn out melt in the mouth flakey.

It pays to be a librarian.

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