AskDefine | Define mesquite

Dictionary Definition

mesquite n : any of several small spiny trees or shrubs of the genus Prosopis having small flowers in axillary cylindrical spikes followed by large sugar-rich pods [syn: mesquit]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Mesquite



From Nahuatl mizquitl.


  1. any of several small spiny leguminous shrubs, of the genus Prosopis, found in the New World tropics and used as forage; the wood is used for smoking food

Extensive Definition

Mesquite (from Nahuatl mizquitl) is a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in Northern Mexico and the United States from the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas up to southwestern Kansas and from southeastern California and southwestern Utah to the southern limits of the Sonoran desert. Mesquite trees are also found in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.


These deciduous trees generally reach a height of 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 ft), although in most of their range they are shrub size. They have narrow, bipinnately compound leaves 50 to 75 mm (2 to 3 inches) long, of which the pinnules are sharply pointed. Twigs have a characteristic zig-zag form. Some common species of Mesquite are Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina), Creeping Mesquite (Prosopis strombulifera) and Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens).
Mesquite is an extremely hardy, drought-tolerant plant because it can draw water from the water table through its long taproot (recorded at up to 190 ft in depth). However, it can also use water in the upper part of the ground, depending upon availability. The tree can easily and rapidly switch from utilizing one water source to the other. However, salt cedar has had a greater effect on water consumption, in some cases even displacing existing mesquite.
Eradicating mesquite is difficult because the plant's bud regeneration zone can extend down to 6 inches (150 mm) below ground level. The tree can regenerate from a piece of root left in the soil.


The bean pods of the mesquite can be dried and ground into flour, adding a sweet, nutty taste to breads, or used to make jelly or wine.
When used in baking, the mesquite flour is used in combination with other flours – substitute ¼ cup-to-½ cup mesquite flour for each cup grain flour. Mesquite is used in breads, pancakes, muffins, cakes and even cookies. Mesquite can also flavour steaks, chicken, pork & fish. It can be added to vegetable stir-fries, scrambled eggs, soups, even ice cream.
Wild animals also eat mesquite bean pods, and in Death Valley coyote feces consisting almost entirely of mesquite beans and pods can often be seen.

Traditional Medicine

Mesquite leaves were once used medicinally; water infused with the leaves can be used as eye drops.


Mesquite wood is hard, allowing it to be used for furniture and implements. Wood from the Prosopis juliflora and Prosopis glandulosa is used for decorative woodworking and woodturning. It is highly desirable due to its dimensional stability. The hard, dense lumber is also sold as Texas Ironwood.
As firewood, mesquite burns slowly. When used to barbecue, the smoke from the wood adds a distinct flavour to the food.

As an introduced species

The species Prosopis pallida was introduced to Hawaii in 1828 and is now very common in the drier coastal parts of the islands, where it is called the Kiawe tree, which is a prime source of monofloral honey production.
Mesquite has also been introduced to parts of Africa, Asia and Australia and is considered by the World Conservation Union as one of the world's most problematic invasive species.



  • The Magnificent Mesquite


External links

mesquite in German: Mesquiten
mesquite in Spanish: Mesquite
mesquite in Esperanto: Prozopo
mesquite in French: Mesquite (flore)
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