Monday, September 14, 2009

The tasty desert.

The Sonoran Desert is considered by ethnobotanists to contain one of the highest if not the highest number of edible native species of any region in the world. Some, like nopales, take a little getting used to, or like palo verde beans, involve some extra preparatory steps for the cook. Others, like saguaro, prickly pear, and barrel cactus fruit, are delicious even when unfamiliar and involve no challenge for the cook. My favorite among native foods is mesquite, which can be ground into a carob-like bean flour.

Velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) puts forth two crops of beans per year, one in the late spring and the second following the summer monsoon. Some of the second-crop pods are beginning to snap when bent, a sign that they're ready for picking. I just gave away the last of my mesquite flour--a friend is baking and selling vegan cookies to help bring a fellow judoka's children over from Cameroon--so I'm looking forward to picking a few gallons of pods and getting them milled by Desert Harvesters. I hardly picked any at all from the first crop as I didn't expect to use up last year's flour.

It would be generous to call locavory oversold. It may be advantageous to produce staple foods in Iowa, vegetables in Sinaloa, and physicists and 'bloggers in Tucson even if the environmental externalities are taken into account. We don't have much water and our diet is water-intensive. Nevertheless there's quite a bit to eat from around here and a certain romance to knowing where one's food came from. (This itself can be taken to an odd extreme--think of the menus at Chez Panisse.) This also can serve along with tradition as a symmetry-breaker. We only eat three meals per day and can think of dozens if not hundreds of equally good possibilities for each. "Go local" narrows the choices. Perhaps better still, in-season produce is still the best, as any tomato enthusiast can attest.

My reservations about locavory aside: Tucsonivores, among Arizona culinary 'blogs, is the most interesting I've found. I'd add it to the roll, the but the last post was made in late 2007. It's nevertheless worthy of a read.

(My recipe for mesquite brownies will be posted later in the fall.)

No comments: