Tag Archives: Mesquite

Natural Healing — Mesquite

mesquite tree If you have ever sheltered under the shadow of a mesquite tree on a hot summer afternoon, you will certainly appreciate at least one aspect that this crooked, spiny, unlovely tree has to offer. Mesquite also spelled mezquite and known as algarroba, belong to the Prosopis species. There are at least 44 clearly defined species and numerous hybrids, making identification difficult. The word mesquite comes from the Nahuatl word mizquitl. The invading Spanish dubbed this tree algarrobo because of its similarity to the carob tree they were more familiar with. In Mexico, all parts of this drought-hardy tree are used. The wood is used for cooking, providing an aromatic, slow smoke that flavors the food. The sweet and nutritious pods are used as a quick chewy snack, fodder for animals and processed into flour. The sap, bark, and leaves from the tree have medicinal value including antioxidant hepatoprotective, hemolytic, anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory activities Archeological evidence shows that the pods have been used as a food source as far back as 6,500 BCE in Mexico. These pods, depending on the species, are made up of 41% sugar, 35% fiber, and 22% protein. They contain lysine, potassium, manganese, and zinc as well. My mother-in-law said that chewing these regularly will help increase a mother’s milk production. She would know. She had 11 children. Then again, mesquite pods are high in dietary estrogen. Our dairy goats love them as well! The pods can be dried or roasted, then ground into a flour. This flour could be used to make cakes that once dry would last long enough to provide essential nutrients during drought. The powdered pods can also be mixed with water to make a sweet drink called añapa or sometimes allowed to ferment into chicha. Mesquite wood has been so aggressively harvested that it is now illegal to cut down live trees, not that those laws are strictly enforced. Although in some areas, most notably in San Luis Potosi, cutting a mesquite tree that has three branches that form a cross is considered sacrilegious. To treat an irritated stomach, a weak tea can be made from 50 grams of mesquite bark per liter of water. The bark should only be allowed to steep a few minutes before straining. If the tea was meant to treat dysentery, the dose is doubled. The tea coats the stomach and reduces inflammation. This same weak tea can be used as a gargle for sore throats, bronchitis or mouth sores. Finely chopped leaves and bark can be used as a soothing astringent. The sap has traditionally been used topically for lip sores and hemorrhoids. To make treat irritated or infected eyes, the sap is added to distilled water, sealed and shaken. When the gum dissolves, it is used as an eyewash. An infusion of mesquite leaves can also be used to make an eyewash. Apparently, mesquite sap is used in a treatment for baldness in some areas of Mexico as well. Two types of mesquite grow in our area. The pod on the left is unripe. When it ripens, it is a cream and red mottled color. It’s sweet and chewy. The pod on the left is called vina locally and is a favorite of our goats, especially after a brush fire toasts them to a crisp. 


Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.

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Filed under Health, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Good Fences make Good Neighbors–unless your neighbors steal them

La Yacata is not yet a full-fledged village, but it does have residents. And having residents besides us, we have neighbors.

So let me introduce you to my neighbors.

First, our oldest neighbor is Don A. He has been planting corn in this area for over 40 years, so feels like he owns the place. He and my husband have an ongoing “turf” war over planting and grazing areas in La Yacata. One particular quirk he has is that if Don A planted a terreno (lot) before, even if the property has changed hands, he continues to plant there. When the new owner tells him directly, usually with some sort of implicit threat, that he may not plant there, Don A sprays chemicals and kills not only his own crop but also poisons the grass that our animals eat surrounding it. No amount of talking to him about the harm of chemical pesticides has done any good. Recently, he himself was envenenado (poisoned) by his own sprayer and even after spending nearly two weeks near death, he was back at it as soon as he could walk, spraying gleefully about La Yacata.
He also is a big believer in veneno (poison) for stray dogs in the area (See 101 Perritos) and his decapitated poisoned chickens have killed numerous of our pets both cats and dogs.
We recently experienced hurricane aftermath storms in La Yacata and as a result had higher than normal rainfall in a very short period of time. Our backyard flooded, a good section of our crops on the hillside were knocked over and two chickens drowned in these rains. We counted ourselves lucky and went about cleaning up.

But not Don A. His most recent offense was destroying the banqueta (sidewalk) at the bottom of the hill to make an arroyo (gully) to try and divert the water runoff away from his house. Seriously, I can’t imagine how he thinks this will work. The sidewalk is about 4 feet higher than the land it surrounds and thus, with the exception of hurricane rains, acts as a dam to keep most of the water contained. Now that the floodgates have been hammered open, I expect he will have even more water in his house.

Don A has also started a business making charcoal.  He cuts down trees and makes this sort of enclosed mud and rock structure to convert the raw tree to charcoal.  He then totes it back to town on his tricycle for sale.

This structure contains the fire which converts the wood to charcoal.

This structure contains the fire which converts the wood to charcoal.

sheep farmer
Next, I’d like you to meet Bull Terrier, the neighbor opposite us on the next road. He started out with a herd of 20-30 borregas (sheep). Every day, he would follow them around as they rampaged fledgling trees, flowers, and crops in their quest for food. He had the gall to tell anyone that complained that our measly flock of 5 goats were causing all this damage, which just simply wasn’t the case.

Bull Terrier soon found that borregas (sheep) required too much maintenance (See Separating the Sheep and the Goats) and traded them for pigs. Pigs don’t have to be taken out to graze. Of course, pig poop is terribly smelly, but that doesn’t seem to faze him. The odor from his house is horrible.
Bull Terrier does like a tidy house though and every day takes out the trash. The only thing is, the trash tractor does not come to La Yacata for pick up. So what does he do with his trash? He throws it on the roof of the vacant house across the street.
pig farmer
Then there are the Pig guys. (See Miss Piggy didn’t bring home the bacon) After we ousted them from our backyard, they moved up the street to dirty someone else’s backyard. They continue to feed chicken intestines to their pigs, which makes pig poop the most lethal chemical gas in la Yacata, and throw chicken feathers wherever they have a mind. Piles of moldy chicken feathers smell to high heaven, just in case you never had the pleasure, and take longer than a plastic bag to disappear.

One of several piles of rotting chicken feathers in La Yacata.

One of several piles of rotting chicken feathers in La Yacata.

The pig guys have begun cutting down the mesquite trees with a chainsaw in La Yacata (on lots not belonging to them of course)–with the intention of selling it in town. Mesquite leña (wood) burns slowly and has a pleasant aroma making it ideal for cooking. Now, as La Yacata is a semi-arid region and no other trees grow here and the mesquite grows so slowly, this deforestation is likely to become a problem in the very near future. I am currently on a quest to see if I can get a picture of them at it to report it to the Departmento de Ecologia (Dept. of Ecology).

This guy just cruised right into La Yacata and started hacking away with his machete. He said it was because the trees looked

This guy just cruised right into La Yacata and started hacking away with his machete. He said it was because the trees looked “muy fea.”

Another neighbor up the hill and his truck loaded with green cut mesquite.

Another neighbor up the hill and his truck loaded with green cut mesquite.

The pig guys are also very confrontational. On more than one occasion, they have stumbled to our door to demand restitution for some plant or other than they claim our goats had trampled or eaten. The thing is, if it were our animals, we would take responsibility for these actions, however, it isn’t and being accused unjustly is enough to make anyone’s blood pressure go up.
Moving up the hill, there is the horse guy. He began his list of sins by obtaining a property certificate under false pretenses. As I am in charge of verifying ownership before certificates are printed for La Yacata, this was a problem left at my door. Even after repeated requests, he has not returned the certificate, although a new one has been given to the lawful owner. He also “owns” at least 3 other lots that he has not registered. Since it is also my job to maintain a current padron (owner list registry) this irks me.  (See Who owns What?)

One morning, we were awakened by some banging and went up to the roof to investigate. There was the horse guy, prying off laminas (corrugated sheet metal) off a structure we call la chueca (crooked) for obvious reasons. My husband hollered and he scurried away. Later when we went to tie up our animals to graze, we could see that 6 or 7 sheets had been removed. The owner of la chueca is over 80 years old and not able to get out to La Yacata much to keep an eye on his investment. But you better believe that once we see him again, we will report it.

The horse guy was also seen removing bricks by the wheelbarrow from a recent construction site, tying his horse in cornfields not his own and making off with grava (gravel) and sand. After all this, my husband still went to him when he wanted maquila (stud service) for Beauty. (See Beauty’s Babies) The horse guy had 3 good looking stallions that he had reportedly “bought” and my husband paid $1000 pesos for an hour’s rental. I objected because nothing the horse guy does is on the level, but my husband went ahead with the deal. A week after this transaction, the previous owners came to claim the horses for non-payment. The rumor is that the stallions had been “vaccinated” to temporarily not produce sperm. As the horse guy provided the maquila (stud service) for at least a half dozen yeguas (mares) in the area, the joke is on the owners now believing their mares to be pregnant, like us. (See Immunocontraception)

Our new next door neighbor is a relative of the pig guys and yep, you guessed it, plans to put pigs in his newly built structure. You can’t imagine how delighted I am about that! During construction, my husband lent him our portable tinaco (water storage tank) and allowed him to leave his cement on our lot under a roof—again against my advice. He did this with the hopes that the owner would give him the construction job, but he didn’t. The workers he did bring in were not the most savory sort, but I expect they came cheap. They left their tortilla bags and soda bottles littered about the place. So every evening, I would gather it all up and throw it in the owner’s lot. And every morning, he would give me a dirty look, but I persisted until he told his workers to pick up the trash. That will teach ’em!

Lest you think all friendly feel is lost in La Yacata, we have some good neighbors. El plomero, although not as reliable as one might like due to his drinking, has always been ready to help out when needed. J. Gpe. of the Lpz clan also has been a good neighbor. He is the owner of the lotes prestados (borrowed lots we share-crop) and offers pleasant conversation, advice, seed corn and a handshake when he visits. The borrega guy and the cow barn guy on the street behind us, aren’t as friendly, but we have never had occasion to complain about their actions. And of course, my suegro (father-in-law) lives up the hill, so we often meet up under one of the few remaining mesquite trees for a Sunday afternoon cookout.

Recently, a new family has moved into the house that was el profe’s. It’s too soon to say what sort of neighbors they will be, but I hope that our fence is deeply entrenched enough to make good neighbors.




Filed under La Yacata Revolution