Mesquite trees are found nearly everywhere in Texas. Prior to the settlers there were not nearly as many Mesquite trees as there are today. They are a tough tree that survives the droughts. The Native Americans used the pods to make flour. The settlers used the beans to create a jelly. So of course I had to try making jelly using the pods of the Mesquite tree.
One gathers the pods when they have turned red or brown but do not harvest them from the ground. If they have holes on them don’t pick them. Do not let the beans sit around long after picking them or they will be covered with beetles. A friend decided to pick beans for me but left them out after harvesting them only to discover the beetles among the beans.
I went looking for Mesquite beans one morning in the neighborhood where I live. I searched a large vacant property where I had seen Mesquite trees while picking Mulberries. Fortunately I had many trees to choose from. Some of the beans are bitter tasting so I went from tree to tree sampling the beans. I was looking for the sweet tasting beans. I not only needed a sweet bean but a tree that had lots of beans close to the ground. I wanted one that had clusters of beans to facilitate quantity picking. I was surprised also how many of the trees were just starting to produce flowers rather than beans. This tells me that the season for harvesting mesquite beans will be a long one. When I found the perfect trees I put as many of the beans as I could into plastic grocery bags. At home I rinsed the beans and then removed leaves and stems. I measure out 8-10 cups of bean pods. I then broke each bean pod in half. I put them in my large pot and covered them with 5 cups of water. I then proceeded to let it boil for 30 minutes. The resulting juice looked like weak tea. The liquid was run through a jelly bag. This tea was then used in my standard jelly recipe. Bring 4 cups of mesquite bean liquid and 1/4 cup lemon juice to a boil. Add 3 cups of sugar, stirring constantly, then after 1 minute of a hard boil add pectin. My friends have pronounced it delicious.
Mesquite Jelly Recipe
3 cups sugar
1 pkg no sugar needed pectin
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice