It’s been a blistering summer already, 108 at Bill’s weather station yesterday afternoon. But summer has another way of announcing itself here in the Texas Hill Country. The beans are beginning to ripen and drop from the honey mesquites (Prosopis glandulosa), to the great delight of the raccoons, rabbits, possums, coyotes, and deer. (I’ve read that by mid-summer, mesquite beans make up something like 80% of a coyote’s diet. And it’s a long-season tree, for another mesquite, nearby, is still embroidered with light green catkins and smothered with bees. Its pods won’t be ready for snacking for another six weeks or so.
The mesquite tree was a staple in the lives of the indigenous people who lived here before we came. TexasBeyondHistory has an excellent review of the many uses of this valuable tree as food, medicine, fuel, and tools.
But ranchers don’t like mesquite, for it competes with the grass for scarce moisture. In fact, mesquite is on the state’s list of invasive species, for like most native plants, this little tree is sturdy, adaptable, and prolific. When it finds a place it likes, it settles down, makes itself at home, and populates the neighborhood with others of its kind.
But there’s not a lot of ranching in Burnet County now, and it’s harder than it used to be to object to mesquite. The wood is great for barbecuing. Honey made from the flowers is the best you’ll ever spread on your cornbread. The beans, gathered when they’re green, make a delicious jelly When they’re dried and ground , they produce a nutritious if slightly bitter flour that can be turned into bread and booze. You can read about my metate adventures here and find my recipe for mesquite muffins.
Noted Texas author J. Frank Dobie once reported this Mexican proverb: “With prickly pears alone one can live, but with prickly pears and mesquite beans, a person will get fat.” I don’t know about that. But a mesquite muffin and jelly is a tasty treat.
Book report. The Enterprise novella trilogy is being released this month and next. The first, Deadlines, is available now. Fault Lines (July 21) and Firelines (August 4) are available for preorder. The omnibus edition (all three titles) will be released in print and digital on August 18.
And while you’re waiting for the Darling Dahlias’ ninth adventure (The DDs and the Voodoo Lily, October?), you can snag Kindle copies of their seventh mystery (The DDs and the Unlucky Clover) and their eighth (The DDs and the Poinsettia Puzzle)–each for just 99 cents. I don’t know how long this sale will go on. Better check it out before it goes away.
Covid report. Texas’ numbers are spiking because our governor didn’t order masks until last week and allowed some businesses to reopen too soon. Our rural county is reporting nearly 250 cases and the numbers go up every day. But we’re isolated here at Meadow Knoll. Bill shops when necessary; I stay home. I am grateful to be living through this pandemic in a green and beautiful place and appreciate it more every day. Wherever you are, I hope you are sheltered and safe.
Reading note. I would not sacrifice a single living mesquite tree for any book ever written. One square mile of living desert is worth a hundred ‘great books.’ –Edward Abbey