Mesquite: The Desert Do-it-All
Mesquite, now prized as a fuel, feeds animals and man, and provides beautiful woodworking stock.
Desert survival requires extreme measures. The shrub-like mesquite tree, for instance, thrives in desert country from Argentina north to the southwestern United States by searching for water with an extensive lateral root system. It also sends taproots far into the earth. In fact, mesquite roots have been discovered 174' below ground in a copper mine!
Not only do mesquite's meandering roots stem erosion of the desert's fragile soil, they also enrich it with nitrogen. But mesquite's role doesn't end there.
When the desert blooms, this small tree's flowers yield nectar for a delectable honey. Later, when the sun scorches other plants, its seed pods feed wild animals, livestock, and man. For example, Arizona's Pima Indians grind mesquite pods into a flour for tortillas and brew them into a pseudo-beer.
Mesquite's major use, however, is for fuel. The wood has a high BTU value, burns with little smoke, and produces minimal ash. Because of the wood's slow-burning characteristic and the unique flavor it imparts to meat cooked over its coals, mesquite charcoal briquets have become the rage for outdoor barbeques. Some fashionable city restaurants are now billing their fare as "mesquite grilled."
Knowing woodworkers seek out mesquite where it grows to tree-size because it shrinks less than three percent from green to bone-dry, works as easily as walnut, bends without streaming, resists wear, and has a color that grows more beautiful with age. Turnings, furniture, and parquet flooring made from this desert do-it-all prove quite notable.