An unconventional ode to the wonders of mesquite.
Call it a love affair or an obsession: Award-winning nature writer and ethnobiologist Nabhan (Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity, 2016, etc.) has a thing for mesquite. Early on he writes rapturously of his desire to become a tree, or at least to become more like a tree—and not just any tree. In his view, the mesquite is of singular importance as an icon, a framer of one’s worldview, a foodstuff, a beverage, a seasoning, a medicine, an antiseptic, a source of fiber and fuel, and a resource for architects and artisans. The author also argues that mesquite has feelings and intelligence, defending this thesis with down-to-earth stories about its remarkable abilities to heal itself, to engage with and offer nourishment and pleasure to its flora and fauna neighbors, and to shape its environment. Nabhan has clearly spent considerable time as an observer of mesquite, and he has a way with words, sometimes punning, sometimes waxing poetic, and never, it seems, holding back in his enthusiasm for his subject. He invites readers to pledge allegiance with him “to this flagship species of the United Desert States of America, and to the mycorrhizal mass on which it stands, one cohesive nation in all creation, its flora and fauna indivisible, with love fests and wild times for all.” Mixed into this odd, sometimes preachy, and often emotional mélange is plenty of solid information about mesquite, its history, and its utility. An activist in the local food movement, Nabhan concludes with 11 mesquite recipes, some quite labor intensive, and detailed instructions for harvesting and processing the pods.
A charming yet quirky book that may puzzle readers outside the deserts of the American Southwest, who are accustomed only to supermarket bags of mesquite for their charcoal smokers.