I was amused to see what looks like locust pods in a bundle on the shelf of the produce section at the store. And even more amused to see them on an episode of Chopped the very same evening that I bought them for this series. These guajes are the seed pods of a Mimosa-/Acacia-looking tree (Leucaena leucocephala) native to southern Mexico. No wonder they look like locust seed pods—the trees are cousins. These have a bronze tint; I have also seen bundles of green pods as well. I am led to believe that they taste identical regardless of pod color.
First things first. There is no way that this seed pod is edible: it is way too tough. That some of the contestants on Chopped would have not figured this out just goes to show what lack of talent that show features. So how to open them? First, they're green (in the sense of immature) so they don't split open as readily as dried bean or locust pods. I've shelled a bunch of beans in my life and these are tougher than some and easier than others. Rip one of the long strings off one of the edges and then starting at the tip, try to split the two sides of the pod apart. Once you get it started, the pods open fairly readily and the beans pop right out.
So what you have left when you shell out the guajes is some green pumpkin seed looking affairs without a hard seed coat. Into the mouth it goes and—drumroll please—it tastes green and vegetal with overtones of avocado and a pleasant undercurrent of garlic. Not too different from the green chickpeas we tried a few weeks ago. The first thing that comes screaming into my brain is guacamole. As soon as the bags of avocados on the counter ripen later this week, these guajes are definitely going into guacamole. Some tortillas are going into the fryer. And I am feasting.
Digging around on the web, I see that guaje seeds are frequently used in guacamole (great minds think alike), in green salsas, and in cooked sauces. I have no doubt that they would be wonderful in my next batch of pepián (a green mole).
Vote: Who would think something this awesome comes from a dry, stringy seed pod? I love these things and am having a hard time imagining guacamole without them ever again.