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 in excess of 40 inches (100 cm). 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. They have narrow, bipinnately compound leaves 50 to 75 mm (2 to 3 in) long, of which the pinnules are sharply pointed. Twigs have a characteristic zig-zag form. Some common species of mesquite are honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina), creeping mesquite (Prosopis strombulifera), and screwbean mesquite (Prosopis pubescens).

Mesquite is an extremely hardy, drought-tolerant plant because it can draw water from the water table through its long taproot (recorded at up to 190 ft {58 m} 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.

Many people, especially ranchers, consider the tree a nuisance because it competes with rangeland grasses for moisture. In many parts of Texas, particularly West and Central Texas, the proliferation of mesquite is blamed for lowering of groundwater tables. However, salt cedar has had a greater effect on water consumption in riparian areas, in some cases even displacing existing mesquite.

New growth of mesquite has needle-sharp thorns up to 75 mm (3 in) long. The spines are tough enough to penetrate the soft soles of sneakers or similar footwear, and can easily puncture tires.

The tree's flowers provide a nectar source for bees to produce mesquite honey (monofloral honey), which has a characteristic flavor.

Mesquite trees grow quickly and furnish shade and wildlife habitat where other trees will not grow. Being a legume, it fixes nitrogen in the soil

where it grows, improving soil fertility. Mesquite is a phreatophyte, which means it has deep roots and transpires efficiently. For this reason, one method of managing water loss in arid areas is the removal of Mesquite.

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.

 

Source: Wikipedia

 

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