|From our rig we are looking directly at an extremely green and lush tree. It almost makes us forget that we are parked in a very dry part of the desert. This last winter has brought extremely little rain and we haven’t yet seen the carpets of blooming desert flowers. Yet there is this Mesquite Tree so unbelievably green. And it’s not the only desert plant which turns this part of the desert into a green garden. There are neighbouring Creosote bushes and they also are very green and adorned with millions of small yellow flowers. How can it be that small flowers are not present this year, while these bigger bushes and trees are so green?|
The explanation is the different way of how plants are receiving their water. While most flowers have a shallow root system and are waiting for moisture in the upper layers of soil, Creosote bushes and our Mesquite tree have long taproots pulling the water out of the deeper layers of the soil.
There are several species of Mesquite trees. The one most notable is Honey Mesquite, which produces yellow flowers producing a very sweet scent. The one species we have right here is producing beans and does not have that sweet smell.
Mesquite (from Nahuatl mizquitl is a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in northern Mexico through the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Deserts, and up into the Southwestern United States as far north as southern Kansas, west to the Colorado Desert in California, and east to the eastern fifth of Texas, where average annual rainfall is more than 101 cm (40 in). Several species are found in arid to semi-arid regions of southern and western South America. These deciduous trees can reach a height of 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 ft) although in most of their range they are shrub size. New growth of mesquite has needle-sharp thorns up to 75 mm (3.0 in) long. The spines are tough enough to penetrate the soft soles of sneakers or similar footwear, and can easily puncture tires.
A blooming Creosote bush
Besides of being able to draw water from the water table through its long taproot (recorded at up to 58 m (190 ft) depth) it can also use water in the upper part of the ground, depending upon availability. The tree can easily and rapidly switch from using one water source to the other.
The bean pods of the mesquite can be dried and ground into flour, adding a sweet, nutty taste to breads, or used to make jelly or wine.
When used in baking, the mesquite bean flour is used in combination with other flours – substitute ¼ cup-to-½ cup mesquite flour in each cup grain flour. Mesquite bean flour is used in breads, pancakes, muffins, cakes and even cookies. Mesquite powder is also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
It is important to note that the bean has a low amount of an anti-nutrition protein that interferes with enzymes that convert proteins into amino acids (called trypsin inhibitors) as well as Phytohemagglutinins. It is unwise to eat these beans raw; they should be cooked to destroy these harmful proteins.
Mesquite leaves were once used medicinally; water infused with the leaves can be used as eye drops
Mesquite wood is hard, allowing it to be used for furniture and implements. Wood from Prosopis juliflora and Prosopis glandulosa is used for decorative woodworking and woodturning. It is highly desirable due to its dimensional stability after being fully cured. The hard, dense lumber is also sold as "Texas Ironwood" and is rather harsh on chain saws and other tools.
As firewood, mesquite burns slowly and very hot. When used to barbecue, the smoke from the wood adds a distinct flavor to the food. This is common in the Southwest and Texas-style barbecue.
Mesquite-wood roasting or grilling is used to smoke-flavor steaks, chicken, pork, and fish. Mesquite smoke flavoring can be added to vegetable stir-fries, scrambled eggs, soups, and even ice cream.
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