By Lisha Dunlap
For Kendra Stanger, the desert is a stunning place with a formidable ecosystem.
Stanger, coordinator of the Environmental Know-how Middle at Chandler-Gilbert Neighborhood Faculty, helps college students find out about Arizona by packages that deliver environmental classes to life.
The middle isn’t only a backyard.
It’s a program developed by a collaboration of instructors from numerous departments and educational disciplines who labored with college students from their courses, honors packages, golf equipment, and neighborhood teams to experiment with sustainability theories.
By way of their collective information, this group remodeled a dusty, two-acre plot of land into an outside garden-based classroom.
The present ETC venture teaches learn how to convert desert mesquite pods into meals.
Mesquite shrubs or small bushes are frequent within the Southwest, and their bean-like pods generally is a nutritious meals supply to people and wildlife.
Stanger described the method of changing the pods to flour, saying, “Don’t let your mesquite pods go to waste.
“They could seem to be a nuisance, however they’re a few of the most plentiful free meals merchandise across the valley. Mesquite is a high-protein meals, extremely nutritious, wealthy in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and lysine. It digests slowly, has a excessive fiber and protein content material and is low on the glycemic index. In just a few easy steps, you’ll be able to flip these pesky pods into usable flour for a lot of completely different recipes. “
Stanger’s steering to utilizing the pods:
Harvest the pods. “They’re accessible from June-September, but it surely’s greatest should you get them proper off the tree. Arrange a tarp beneath the tree, shake to dislodge, and all pods that fall with out pulling are prepared.
“One of the simplest ways to seek out out in case your mesquite tree has pods price harvesting is to style them! Right here within the Valley there are a number of varieties, however the two most typical are Honey and Velvet mesquite.
“Take a pod from the tree, chew it only a bit, should you like the flavour, harvest from that tree. Resulting from cross pollination and hybridization, some received’t style good. In the event you style the pod and it’s bitter, or sucks the moisture out of your mouth, transfer on… there are higher bushes.”
Kind. Undergo and do away with twigs, leaves and different particles gathered whereas harvesting.
Toast or dry the pods. To do away with beetles and different undesirables which will have gotten into the pods, the middle toasts them in CGCC’s ceramics kiln at 185 levels F for about two hours.
Mix and sift. Mix the rest in a meals processor or mortar and pestle till you have got a flour-like consistency. Sift with a mesh strainer to get all of the unblended seeds or husks out.
“There are some services that can mill your pods for you,” Stanger mentioned. “It took me about half an hour to show one 5-gallon bucket of already toasted pods into 2 kilos of flour utilizing a meals processor. So, should you’ve acquired rather more than that… it is likely to be well worth the journey.”
Stanger mentioned mesquite flour is gluten free.
“In case you have expertise baking with gluten free merchandise, use it as you usually would one other gluten free flour resembling almond or coconut. Take into accout it’s on the candy aspect.
“In case you are wanting to make use of it to cook dinner or bake with like common flour, use 1/4 cup mesquite flour and three/4 cup common flour for 1 full cup. Mesquite flour has been used to make tortillas, candy breads, pancakes, cookies, muffins and desserts as a result of it’s candy, but it surely can be added to soups, gravies and sauces, casseroles, vegetable and meat dishes, and pie crusts.
Directions, movies, and recipes for utilizing the flour can be found on-line. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum presents concepts at https://www.desertmuseum.org/heart/edu/docs/k-2_TIP_recipes.pdf. And you probably have any questions, feedback, issues, or concepts, Stanger welcomes emails to Kendra.Stanger@cgc.edu.
Initiatives such because the mesquite pods harvest help the Chandler-Gilbert Neighborhood Faculty imaginative and prescient for its college students to be ready to steer the neighborhood right into a promising and sustainable future. To search out out extra about CGCC interdisciplinary Experiential Studying, go to cgc.edu/lecturers/experiential-learning/environmental-technology-center. https://www.cgc.edu/degrees-certificates/sustainability.
“Sustainability is greater than a buzzword, it’s a lifestyle,” Stanger added, “and a potential profession.”