Honey Mesquite is one of our all-time favorite “noxious” plants. (It is thought to compete with rangelands, much to the dismay of ranchers.) Its pods taste like brown sugar and make delicious cookies, it puts nitrogen into the soil, can survive on very little water, has an awesomely long phreatophytic taproot that pumps groundwater to dry surface soils and bees love it. (If we could only be this cool… )
This handsome phreatophtye is a desert superhero. Phreatophytes are plants with extremely long taproots (200 ft!) that search out ground water deep in the soil and then pull it up to redistribute in drier surface soils. This process, called hydraulic redistribution, puts water where other plants can reach it, as well as creating a moister zone for all of the tiny soil critters that live near the surface and make life better for everyone.
There have been some very interesting experiments with phreatophytes, questioning whether these special plants could be used as “wells” to water other edible crops planted around them. This can be very useful in re-establishing needed riparian corridors that keep our waterways shaded and healthy, while watering crops that can feed us and other animals. It also gives us more possibilities for farming in desertified areas.
Honey Mesquite also happens to be delicious. These nutrient dense pods have been a staple food of the O’odham people for thousands of years and are now being re-recognized as an important perennial desert crop. Mesquite pods, which ripen throughout the summer, are a naturally sweet superfood. Higher in protein than soy beans, they are also rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc and have a low-glycemic index. Their flavor hovers in the range of brown sugar, molasses and toasted barley, with hints of a nutty chocolate and cinnamon. We harvest Honey Mesquite to make delicious pancakes, muffins and molasses.
Mesquite is not easy to process. Traditionally, the pods and beans were dried and then ground into flour in a special stone metate. These days, you can easily break your food processor or gum up your grain mill attempting to process this flour at home. If you don’t have access to a hammermill, you can still make a tasty (albeit less protein-rich) flour out of the dried pods with no seeds – or simmer the whole pods (4 quarts water to 1 pound pods) with water for a delicious molasses.
The anti-septic soothing sap of this tree has been effectively used on everything from chapped lips to sunburn and skin wounds. We use it in our luxurious Honey Mesquite hand balm. We also gently roast the crushed pods before extracting their delicious fragrance for this special salve. Give your skin a treat and check out our Honey Mesquite botanical hand balm.