Mesquite—The Ancient Food You Need to Know About

If you haven’t yet heard about mesquite, you’re going to want to read on, because this versatile, affordable, and delicious plant-based sweetener and flour substitute just may be the most exciting new superfood of the moment. The Prosopis plant, commonly known as mesquite in the United States, has a rich mineral content matched by its equally rich flavor. Desert dwellers have used mesquite as a staple food for centuries, and for good reason.mesquite pods hanging in the branches

 Mesquite Through the Ages

The word “mesquite” comes from the Spanish word “mezquite,” a Hispanicized version of the Aztec name for the plant, “mizquitl.” Early Anglicized versions included “mesquit,” “mezquit,” “musket,” and “musquit,” before “mesquite” became the standardized and accepted spelling.

There are 45 species of mesquite plant in the United States. The pods contain beans that can be harvested and ground into a powder. Each species has a distinct flavor. Some can be quite bitter while others are mild and sweet. Mesquite prefers to grow in hot, dry climates, such as the Southwestern United States.

For indigenous people of the Sonoran Desert, which covers parts of modern-day Arizona, California, and Mexico, mesquite is a reliable source of food in times of scarcity. During the Civil War, when coffee was hard to come by, Texans roasted and ground a mixture of mesquite beans, okra seeds, wheat, corn, and acorns as a replacement. They also boiled dried mesquite leaves to make tea.

An Energy Boost That Lasts

Adding mesquite to your diet can give you long-mesquite flour on a wooden spoonlasting energy and satiety. Mesquite is known for its sweet flavor, with undertones of nuttiness and caramel, but it has a remarkably low glycemic index (GI) of just 25. This low GI helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Part of the reason for mesquite’s low GI is its high mineral content. Mesquite powder boasts an impressive nutritional profile, it contains…

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Lysine

Mesquite is also a concentrated source of fiber – meaning it takes your body longer to break down and digest it, which also helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Mesquite contains high levels of protein, too, between 11% and 17%.

Adding Mesquite to Your Diet

Mesquite is a versatile ingredient that can be usedto create a number of dishes, including…

  • Tortillas
  • Breads
  • Pancakes
  • Muffins
  • Smoothies
  • Ice cream
  • Blended coffee drinks

You can purchase mesquite flour, meal, and powder at various specialty stores and farmers’ markets or online.

If you live in an area where mesquite grows naturally, you can also harvest the pods and make your own. In addition to the American Southwest, mesquite can be found in arid and semiarid regions in South America, Asia, and Africa. A number of online and print resources offer helpful advice on best practices for making your own mesquite powder and flour.