all the cool kids these days are talking about perennial agriculture– food that grows on trees. if we are going to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere to levels comfortable for us and the species we like, perennial agriculture is where it’s at. yay trees!
one of the challenges of perennial agriculture is that we are used to relying on annual crops (wheat, corn, soy, rice) for the foods that produce the bulk of our calories. these annuals are what we grew up eating, and what our parents grew up eating, and our great-great grandparents too. we’re hard pressed to find a source to teach us how to cook chestnut bread or palo verde porridge. so us permaculture evangelists have some experimenting to do. luckily we are true believers and will eat the crumbly, chalky, pungent products we worked so hard on while we crack the code. you’re welcome.
i wrote about harvesting and processing mesquite here. since then, i’ve learned that the flavor of the pods vary greatly within the mesquite species, and even from tree to tree. our tree is a honey mesquite, and has a quite pungent after taste. a friend harvested some screwbean mesquite and it was sweet, mild, and slightly nutty. then i tried some velvet mesquite and it was even more mild. the other day damian was making screwbean mesquite pancakes (just mesquite flour and eggs. kinda like corn cakes in texture.) and they smelled like chocolate to me. and that, my friends, gave me an idea. mesquite and chocolate, what a perfect combination!
i had made these (amazing) fudgy brownies many times before, and i knew i could replace the wheat flour with coconut flour with good results since i had done it. i figured i could take it one step further and replace any annual ingredient with a perennial ingredient and make “tree cake” for damian’s 36th birthday. the results exceeded my wildest expectations. it became “cake” because i doubled the recipe, baked it in two pans, then layered them with whipped cream*, and stuck a candle in the frosted glory. mesquite and chocolate, a perennial match made in heaven. the recipe below is for one pan of tree brownies. you probably won’t regret doubling it though…
*i know what you are thinking, cream does not grow on trees, it’s true. however, cream from a pasture raised cow does not count as an annual crop because a well managed pasture sequesters carbon and builds top soil instead of washing it away.
- 10 tablespoons pastured butter, melted (you could use coconut oil or ghee if you want)
- 1 cup coconut or date sugar, or maple syrup. (if using maple syrup, increase coconut flour by 1/4 cup)
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup fair trade cacao powder
- 1/2 cup mesquite flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour (or more mesquite)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
mix the butter and sugar. mix in the eggs and vanilla, then the dry ingredients. mix it all well and pour into a parchment lined 8-inch baking pan. bake at 325 for 20-30 minutes (i had to bake 40 minutes because of my altitude), until a toothpick comes out almost clean. cool on a rack. DO NOT try to cut into squares until completely cool. if it’s a warm day stick them in the fridge for a bit before cutting into squares.
this picture is not very flattering of the cake, but you get the idea. and you can see how excited people were to get seconds. (i stole the picture from nathen’s instagram feed.)