We have a lot of mesquite trees at the ranch and we love them!
- They are edible, medicinal, and beneficial in a variety of ways including the wood that can be used for fuel or other purposes.
- As a legume they fix nitrogen and feed life in the soil which helps prepare it for other plants to grow.
- They provide filtered shade for all kinds of things to grow underneath them.
- All the vegetation cools the soil, allowing beneficial microbes to flourish, and cools the surrounding air, a welcome outcome in the desert.
- This all turns the soil into a sponge that soaks up and stores rainwater for future use, recharging the aquifer, reducing erosion, and decreasing downstream flooding.
Look at the small mesquite on the left in the picture above and notice the flourishing microclimate underneath compared to the surrounding area. This is a great start! Instead of killing with chemicals or clear-cutting the land (which many people do and it turns into a hot, dry desert), you can add beneficial plants, expand this life-giving microclimate, and phase out any plants that aren't as beneficial.
To the right of what appears to be the end of the trail we found a struggling non-mesquite tree. It was completely surrounded by mesquites that were choking it to death! Since we didn't start with many non-mesquites, we decided to rescue this guy by cutting back the mesquites around it. Now he has a fighting chance. We'll monitor the situation and post an update after a while. Through succession planting we plan to phase out many of the mesquites over time and turn much of our landscape into an edible food forest (along with medicinals and other beneficials). In the meantime, the mesquites can help nurse a whole variety of other plants. A neighbor gave us some chiltepin pepper starts. These tiny native peppers are believed to be the ancestor that all other pepper varieties were bred from. They are a super-hot chili pepper with medicinal qualities that grows wild under the shade of mesquite trees, so that's where we planted them and they're doing pretty good. Attempts to grow chiltepins on farms in Texas led to chili piquins, a delicious pepper we enjoyed while visiting there last winter. We were given a wild-harvested plant loaded with dried peppers and warned about their heat. They were excellent on eggs and other dishes. We're looking forward to trying chiltepins!