Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trees 101: Mesquite

While we're still in the midst of summer and the grilling season, it's the perfect time to discuss mesquite. Known most widely for its use as a firewood to flavor barbecued meats, there is much more to mesquite than its role in creating a yummy steak. The various components of this versatile tree: the flowers, seeds, pods, and hard wood, are used in everything from food to medicine to furniture and flooring.

In spite of the fact that this tree sports very large, sharp thorns, people have successfully harvested mesquite for more than a millennia. The seeds and pods have been used to feed humans with flours, porridges, jellies and even wine. They've also been used to feed livestock as well. The toasted seeds are frequently used in coffee blends and the flowers, which produce a rich nectar that bees go wild for, are used to make honey. Mesquite gum is used in the production of sugars and thickening agents for baking. Medicinally, mesquite can be used to treat respiratory illnesses such as colds, flus and sore throats. It reduces inflammation and eliminates diarrhea.

Native Americans, especially those tribes of the American southwest, fashioned mesquite wood into arrow tips and they also used the gum to decorate their pottery. The tree figured prominently in the Aztec creation myth as well. During the second sun when the universe was being created for the second time (we are presently in the fifth sun, Nanahuatl), Quetzalcoatl, the God of the Winds, created the world and fed his people with the fruits of the mesquite tree.

In ritual and spellwork, mesquite is used to bring success, to increase the power of healing herbs, and in rites where perseverance is essential. Mesquite vibrates to elements of air, fire and water. Its energy is feminine and it's ruled by both the Moon and Saturn.

Photo courtesy of lasertrimman on flickr.

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