Out of all the mesquite trees in the United States, Texas holds 76% percent. Native to Texas, mesquite trees haven’t always been on the friendliest terms with ranchers. Referred to by some as devil trees, the relationship between the two has been a bit complicated, to say the least. Although known as invasive and destructive, it provides nutrition and sustenance to cattle and wild life during seasons of drought.
The Native Indians who once roamed Texas referred to the mesquite tree as the tree of life. They used every part of the tree from the root to the leaves for food, medicine and shelter. Mesquite flour was 20% of the native Indian diet. In the early 1500's Cabeza de Vaca journaled how the Native Indians took the mesquite bean pods from the trees, ground them into flour and made a meal mixed with earth and water. Unknown to the Indians this mesquite bean flour is a "Superfood" due to its low glycemic index, high fiber, protein, calcium and natural sugar content.
In the summer of 2012 Texas was going through a heavy drought, which left the ranch land barren and dry. Victoria Barrera Cappadona was fascinated by all the plentiful mesquite bean pods hanging from the trees. Intrigued and amazed at how they continued to thrive during this harsh environment, Victoria asked her father about mesquite beans. He recounted how in the 1940s, during the time of war and rations, he and his siblings would chew on the mesquite bean pods during the summertime for their sweet flavor.
Waiting and growing silently on the ranch, the mesquite trees were soon to find themselves in the spotlight. Victoria asked her father-in-law Fred, "Besides nutrition for the cattle and wildlife, what can people do with all these mesquite beans?" His response was believe it or not, jelly can be made from the mesquite bean. With a sense of adventure and desire to try something new, Victoria, her husband Justin, with their three sons gathered mesquite bean pods from their backyard and began to experiment with recipes. The first few batches weren’t what she had intended. Through trial-and-error, she found the perfect mesquite bean jelly recipe. It was delicious! Their children preferred it over traditional jellies and soon her entire family was asking for more. The floodgates were just about to open. By summer of 2013, 50 cases of Cappadona Ranch Mesquite Bean Jelly was made and advertised by word-of-mouth. She sold out by December.
One morning, Fred walked in after picking chilli pequin that are grown wildly throughout South Texas. As he watched Victoria make another batch of her jelly, he told her, “you should make a batch with chilli pequin, I bet that would taste great!” That summer Cappadona Ranch had a brand-new product - mesquite bean jelly with chilli pequin! It was a perfect combination of down South sweetness with just the right kick of Texas zing. Cappadona Ranch was growing. Eighty cases were made that summer, forty with chilli pequin and forty without. Both recipes sold out by the beginning of December.
Victoria vigorously hit social media creating Facebook events, sharing recipes, pictures, developing Google order forms and even attending several events in the area promoting her products. Cappadona Ranch hit South Texas like a tasty storm. To see the smiles on people’s faces and the awe in their eyes realizing it was the flavor of a mesquite bean they were enjoying was truly a revelation to us. We knew we had a Texas treat!
With more request for their jelly and customers requesting baskets it was time to think bigger! In April of 2016 they created Rio Grande Mesquite, LLC, and built their first website so customers could order online. Victoria met with UTRGV Small Business Development Center to help guide her. After several visits with the UTRGV team they thought she had something unique. They encouraged her to apply for the McAllen Chamber Innovation Grant and USDA-Value Added Grant. To her surprise she was one of six entrepreneurs to receive the 2016 McAllen Chamber of Commerce Innovation Grant and the only one to receive the full $10,000. She was also one of fourteen entrepreneurs to receive the 2016 USDA-Value Added Grant in the state of Texas.
Justin and Victoria needed more mesquite beans to last the whole year and needed to come up with more convenient way of harvesting. Justin grabbed the family tractor and welded a basket to the front end loader where he was able to lift up their three boys to prime picking positions. It was genius! With arm, eye and sun protection the boys were off picking mesquite beans with Dad, working and learning what the value of a dollar is all about!
In August of 2016 after a hot summer day of picking mesquite beans, Victoria was drying the beans in the oven. As with any typical family with three active boys and every day distractions, Victoria found herself playing referee, and forgot the mesquite beans in the oven drying and accidentally roasted them. Frustrated and upset, thinking of tossing the scorched beans, Victoria remembered reading in the Texas almanac about the Texas Civil war soldiers making coffee out of roasted mesquite beans when regular coffee was scarce. Her husband came home that night and she had him taste the ‘coffee.’ He was completely surprised when she told him it was from roasted mesquite beans, hence the creation of Cappadona Ranch roasted coffee – naturally caffeine free!
Attending the local farmers market, many customers started requesting mesquite bean flour because of the sweet taste and health benefits. Victoria researched mesquite bean flour and experimented milling it until she had the right consistency and Cappadona Ranch mesquite bean flour was born.
In the process of milling the flour Victoria noticed many of the seeds in the pod after milling never pulverized. She thought there must be something we could do with these seeds. Researching, she found the seed has the highest concentration of protein. After many days trying to figure out how to extract the seed from the hard hull and roasting it at the right temperature the seed was crunchy and delicious and another creation was in the making! Cappadona Ranch roasted tea made from the mesquite seeds! Testing the tea hot and cold over ice was delightful! Searching the internet for this tea she found that the Cahuilla Indians had once made this tea from the seeds of the mesquite bean. She couldn't find any other information or company that makes or sells this product. The creation of this rare tea is a long and tedious process but well worth the rare treat! Cappadona Ranch is the sole company offering tea and coffee derived from the mesquite bean.
With the rediscovery of this amazing fruit, the “mesquite bean pod”, and what edible creations can be made, her customers wanted recipes! Cappadona Ranch added a recipe tab on their website. It features their jellies, coffee and flour plus south Texas recipes and recipes using other native edible plants that grow here in south Texas! They are making plans for a Cappadona Ranch Cookbook in the next couple of years.
Victoria created a blog on their website in hopes of educating people not only on their mesquite bean products, but on South Texas, Cappadona Beef Master cattle, ranch lifestyle, South Texas recipes and more.
Their products are so wonderful, they have appeared in numerous articles, such as McAllen Chamber Magazine - March 2017, Welcome Home Winter Texan Newspaper - October 25, 2017, Texas Co-op Power - November 2017, Texas Co-op Power - February 2018, Ag Mag - February 2018 and coming soon a national publication, Farm Show Magazine - March 20, 2018.
Cappadona Ranch products have been sold and showcased with GoTexan at the Mercedes Texas Live Stock Show and Rodeo - March 2017, Texas State Fair GoTexan Store - October 2017 and San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo - February 2018 and future Mercedes Texas Rodeo - March 2018.
Through this experience, Victoria has offered educational and product sampling during the "Evening with Friends" - Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut/East Foundation book signing - Museum of South Texas History and "Gathering at the Waters. 12,000 Years of History" Exhibition during the San Antonio 300 Year Celebration at the Witte Museum in San Antonio.
In addition to promotional events to market products, a partnership has been formed to assist the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family and Consumer Health Extension Agents in Hidalgo and Willacy Counties for Diabetes Education, Walk Across Texas, Healthy South Texas, Better Living Texas and other Statewide Extension Programs.
Their story has been one of hard work, dedication, and a willingness to experiment with our native resources, which are proving to be beneficial. This has been an effort of family, love, and the desire to reintroduce just a little bit of our Texas history. Now here they stand, still growing and providing the best Mesquite Bean products this side of Texas! And believe us… there’s still plenty more surprises to be had!Give the gift of TEXAS! Cappadona Ranch Mesquite Bean products are TEXAS GOLD!