Utne Blogs > Environment

Eating Locally in the Desert

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Environment, wilderness and wildlife, trees, mesquite, forest products, local food, sustainable food, desert, High Country News, Keith Goetzman,

Mesquite pods

You can’t grow crops in a desert, right? You can if you grow desert crops. Farmer Mark Moody is staking out a local food niche by cultivating mesquite, the scrubby and tough little tree, in Arizona’s Sonoran desert, reports High Country News. He processes the tree’s slender pods into a gluten-free, high-protein flour and has other plans for mesquite products, which according to the magazine are many:

The mesquite tree is one of the Sonoran Desert’s most useful plants. Southwestern tribes harvested it for centuries. The whole tree can be utilized — the pods ground into a sweet, nutty flour, the yellow catkins used to produce honey, and the cherry-brown hardwood sawed into furniture and flooring, not to mention used for sweet-smelling firewood and grill flavoring.

In addition to his own orchard plantings, Moody wild-harvests (with Park Service permission) mesquite pods from native stands along the Colorado River. “The Indians call this the tree of life,” he tells High Country News, and predicts, “In the next three years, mesquite will be common in everybody’s kitchen.”

Take a trip to Moody’s mesquite orchard by watching the accompanying video report “The Mesquite Wrangler,” an online extra produced by former Utne Reader intern Cally Carswell.

Source: High Country News

Image by cogdogblog, licensed under Creative Commons.