Big Jim: Magic in mesquite beans

2013-07-09T00:00:00Z 2014-04-03T16:16:23Z Big Jim: Magic in mesquite beansJim Griffith, Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I’ve got a wonderful word for you – péchita. That’s the purely regional name for mesquite beans, and it comes from the Opata language. In Texas or New Mexico they know about mesquite beans, but they call them something else. “Péchita” is strictly ours.

If you have access to several mesquite trees, chew on a pod from each one to select the sweetest, as this quality varies from tree to tree. Then, if you want a cool, refreshing summer drink, grind the dry pods (not the beans) in your food processor, and add water, ice and sweetener if needed. This is an ancient delicacy hereabouts, and it’s worth trying. You can make it thin like a drink, or thick like an atole as you wish.

Mesquite is coming into popularity as a source of flour. If you have lots of pods, you can take them to Desert Harvesters, a local outfit, and get them ground for you. Look them up on their website for details, including their schedules. They only grind on certain days.

Otherwise, you can buy mesquite flour locally. The organization Native Seeds/SEARCH is located on North Campbell and sells a four-ounce packet of mesquite meal for four dollars (I’ll write more about this wonderful organization later on).

There are lots of good recipes for mesquite flour that you can find through an Internet search. I use this flour in pancakes, waffles, breads, and even biscuits, mixing it in with wheat flour.

There’s even a local company – Tortillería Arevalo – that makes and sells tortillas de péchita – they are sweet, with an unusual flavor. They often appear at local farmers’ market, which is nice, as their headquarters is on the far, far West Side.

Where there is a mesquite tree you can be sure to enjoy the offerings of this plant. Just don’t leave our region and start talking about péchita – they won’t understand you!

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About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com

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