Friday, November 14, 2014

In Praise of Mesquite Trees

I made my annual pilgrimage to the "motherland" this past weekend so that I could attend my hometown's annual Spinach Festival. It is always a great time for seeing old classmates!

While making several trips to Crystal from the nearby town where I was staying, I had lots of opportunity to look at the country side. 

The highway on the 40 mile stretch between the towns is lined with Mesquite trees; or to some, "Mesquite brush" as the trees are seldom very tall.

Those trees probably don't look like much to most folks but to me it's home. Not only that, the lowly mesquite has been a part of my entire life and a part of survival for ancient inhabitants of the area. 

When I was a kid, we had a fair amount of the trees in our yard and one of the bigger ones had a horizontal bend to its main trunk. The bend was about 5 feet off the ground which made it the perfect climbing tree for a kid. My siblings and I spent many hours playing in that tree. I even remember when we first started trying our luck  at climbing; we would get scared and not climb back down. There we were, stuck in the tree until we either got brave or Mom or Dad came to rescue us!

Mistletoe grows on Mesquite trees and we used to hang a sprig of mistletoe in the house at Christmas time. 

Mesquites, in spite of their tiny leaves, do provide shade and give an illusion that makes an area seem somewhat cooler by virtue of their greenery.

In ancient times, the Coahuiltecan Indians used the Mesquite trees extensively, the wood provided fuel, the thorns served as crude sewing needles and the beans of the Mesquite tree was a food source for them. 

Even today Mesquite tree wood makes wonderful fuel for cooking barbecue, and some of the most beautiful wood floors, cabinets and furniture I have seen. 

Mesquite beans  make a sweet, but low glycemic flour which is quite expensive but good. Those same beans also provide food for cattle. 

With the incredible survivability of the Mesquite trees as well as their usefulness, I always hate to see people malign them or relegate them as some sort of "trash tree". They are in fact an important native plant in Texas and in many ways, a part of our heritage. 

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