Recipe: Blackberry Mesquite Cobbler

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My Grandmother made the most amazing blackberry cobbler I’ve ever had. This is not her cobbler, but it is also amazing.

We made the crust out of a mixture of mesquite flour and chopped pecans. The blackberries we picked with our friends next to the forest by our home, right here in Bryan, Texas.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups mesquite flour
  • 1.5 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 stick soft butter
  • 2 – 3 cups blackberries

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In a food processor, chop up the amount of pecans to be used. Next, bring your oven to 400 degrees. Combine the chopped pecans with the mesquite flour and butter; form it into a dough the resembles a graham cracker crust. Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of a greased pie plate. Next, fill the remainder with fresh or frozen blackberries! Carefully roll out the remainder of the dough between two pieces of wax paper. Cut this into strips and lay them “decoratively” across the top of the cobbler.

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Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the edges start to darken. The blackberries should be bubbling.

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This dish is best fresh, of course, but it does go well with yogurt (or ice cream?!) or even for breakfast with almond or hackberry milk! There’s no added sugar, and all the ingredients are extremely healthy, so while this is obviously a dessert, there’s no reason not to indulge and enjoy it!

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Recipe: “Forest Bars”

Breaking news! There are candy bars in Nature! Yes, yummy, indulgent candy bars, growing right on the trees!

Maybe not quite….

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These are based on all the different fruit and nut “paleo” energy bars you commonly find at the the grocery store. They’re amazingly simple to make and great snack for everyone!

For the base, we also used flour made from mesquite pods. Mesquites, for better or worse, are quite prolific here in Bryan, Texas, but their fruit are an amazing (and delicious!) food source. The other ingredients are flexible; you can use whatever fruit or nut you’d like. For us, we had a great blackberry harvest earlier this Spring, and we still have a lot of pecans left over from last Fall. You could also use grapes or strawberries instead, or almonds or other store-bought nuts too though.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mesquite flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 – 1 cup blackberries (flexible, depending on size, juiciness or if frozen)

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First chop or break up the pecans. You can do this by hand or in a food processor. Next add all the ingredients into said processor. Pulse until the whole mixture is starting to pull away from the sides. If it doesn’t seem to be coming together very well, you can add some more berries or 1 tbsp. of water. In the end, the mixture should be very dense and not too moist. Remove it with a spatula from the processor and push it into an oiled square pan. Last, cover it with wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When they’re done, you can wrap individual portions or just pull some out whenever you’re hungry!

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For more information on when, and where, you can find your own haul of local, wild blackberries, and what to do with ’em, check out their information page here! For information on making mesquite flour, and when and where to find mesquite trees, click here!

Recipe: Acorn Pot Pie

I love pot pie. It is a meal unto itself. Its an amazing way to combine so many different yummy ingredients into a single, breaded, delicious, dish.

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We make a lot of different breads using mesquite, acorn and dock flours, and cobbler and crackers as well. So it was only a matter of time before we thought of making a pot pie. For the crust, though, we’d obviously use acorn flour, as mesquite flour is so honey-sweet and dock flour doesn’t cohere very well. We filled it with lots of different wild veggies we picked: purslane, curly dock and amaranth leaves and onions and garlic. We also added hard boiled eggs, turkey, and some sweet potato. You could leave the eggs out and use more veggies, and you could substitute another meat for the turkey, or leave it out as well.

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We lightly sauteed all the veggies together before putting them into the pie, but you could also omit that if you wanted them to have a fresher taste. Additionally, we didn’t make a gravy or sauce to incorporate into the pie either; we just forgot to. However, while ours was delicious, gravy is always good!

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 3 cups acorn flour (depending on how much veggies and/or meat is included)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 egg
  • turkey or other meat (optional)
  • sauteed/steamed purslane, curly dock, amaranth, onions, garlic or other veggies
  • 4 – 6 hard boiled eggs (optional)

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First, if you’re so inclined, hard boil some eggs to include in your pie. Next, mix the first three ingredients together with a pastry cutter or fork until well incorporated and chill for 10 minutes. Take 2/3 of this and press into a greased pie pan. Saute the purslane and onion and garlic with oil. Steam the curly dock and amaranth leaves with oil as well.

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Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

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In layers, add onion, garlic, greens, purslane, eggs and turkey to the pie. Pour your gravy, one cups worth, over the top of this mixture. Take the remaining dough and roll out between two sheets of wax paper. Delicately place over the top of the pie and bake the whole thing in the oven, at 350 degrees, for about 25, 30 minutes or until starting to brown.

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Acorn flour naturally has a darker cast after baking, so no need to fret about it being burned! For information on making acorn flour, or what type of acorns to pick and when, click here. For info on finding wild veggies like purslane, amaranth and wild onion, follow the links to their plant pages.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Mesquite flour

So, making mesquite flour is probably the easiest flour to make. Also, mesquite trees are rather over-abundant in this part of Texas, and each tree can produce hundreds of beans.  So they’re not hard to find, nor will anyone begrudge you taking them. You may actually be doing someone a favor!

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Mesquite beans have a starchy pith inside that tastes similar to sweet honey or molasses. It’s got a lot of fructose as well as protein, so it can provide energy and be quite filling!

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Take your ripe, dry beans and simply snap them up into smaller pieces and toss them into a blender or other grinder.

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Grind them up as you would a bunch of ice; pulsing until all the pieces are ground. Use a mesh sieve to sift out the finely ground flour from the chaff of the outer pods and the stone hard seeds. You can either pour this remnant back into the blender to try and get more flour out of it, or you can simply toss it in the compost pile.

There’s a wide variety of recipes you can make using mesquite beans, from pancakes and pie crusts to bread AND jelly! Make sure any beans you gather are ripe and dry (meaning they pull off the tree with no effort and can SNAP in half) and don’t have any black or dark stuff growing on them. In really wet years, in places where it’s humid (like Bryan/College Station), the rain and the bugs can combine to ruin a mesquite harvest. Lucky for us, those seem to be the years when the beautyberries THRIVE!

But that’s another recipe.

Garden Update: Rewilding

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So it’s been a while since I updated about our wild garden. When I’d last mentioned it, we’d run into a set-back, but this past Summer has seen it really take off.

For wild plants and seeds, the process of over-wintering is a crucial step in preparing them for germination in the Spring. Additionally, we found that, by far the easiest step to take, was to work with wild volunteers that were already appearing in our garden! Curled dock (Rumex crispus), wild amaranth (Amaranthus spp.), mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis), and blackberry (Rubus spp.) have all shown up and we’ve nurtured and encouraged them as best we can.

We have had a lot of success this past year seeing a lot of things started from seed or transplantings as well! We found some purslane (Portulaca oleracea) growing, and since it’s such a wonderful, delicious vegetable, we took a couple cuttings and stuck them in, of all places, an old wicker papasan chair we had found, and it went bananas!

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Purslane is a succulent, and can be readily propagated by taking cuttings during its growing season, similar to cacti. It loves to thrive in heat and humidity, when all other plants, wild or domestic, are wilting into Fall.

We were also able to extend the amount of time we had with the amaranth this Summer, simply because we kept introducing its seed into new places! Turns out amaranth seed, like many wild seeds, don’t need much encouragement, if anything. We also grew a rather prolonged crop of tomatoes, wild basil, and even managed to have some chocolate mint for a time.

The effect restoring all these native species has had on the rest of the ecosystem around us has been inspiring to see as well! From tree frogs, fireflies, garden spiders and butterflies to skinks, opossums, bats and mourning doves; we’ve really enjoyed seeing the positive impact we’re having on the world around us!

 

Even though native plants don’t need much TLC, it’s been hard working restoring and reintroducing all these different species to our yard. For that, we’ve been really grateful to have the help of the hardest working grub in the garden.

I feel really happy about the experiences our Luna is getting to have here, because it’s those kind of experiences which can really make a difference in a kid’s life. Seeing where their food really comes from, seeing and touching the earth and the land around them, learning how things change and grow; seeing Life. All too often kids don’t get those kind of lessons today, but that’s something we can change. Wild plants are available all around us, even in a large city like Houston or Dallas. Even if we live in apartments or duplexes, people are learning how they can bring some plants, some greenery, some Nature back into their lives.

No, we can’t change the world overnight, but we can make a difference each day, with each seed, each plant, each child. And, we’re finding, that’s all it takes.

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