Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair

November 1, 2020
Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair

Winner of a 2019 Southwest Book Award(BRLA)An homage to the useful and idiosyncratic mesquitetreeIn his latest book, Mesquite, Gary Paul Nabhan employshumor and contemplative reflection to convince readers that theyhave never really glimpsed the essence of what he calls"arboreality."As a Franciscan brother and ethnobotanist who has often mixedmirth with earth, laughter with landscape, food with frolic, Nabhannow takes on a large, many-branched question: What does it means tobe a tree, or, accordingly, to be in a deep and intimaterelationship with one?To answer this question, Nabhan does not disappear into a forestbut exposes himself to some of the most austere hyper-arid terrainon the planet—the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts along theUS/Mexico border—where even the most ancient perennial plants arenot tall and thin, but stunted and squat.There, in desert regions that cover more than a third of ourcontinent, mesquite trees have become the staff of life, not justfor indigenous cultures, but for myriad creatures, many of whichrespond to these "nurse plants" in wildly intelligent and symbioticways.In this landscape, where Nabhan claims that nearly everysurviving being either sticks, stinks, stings, or sings, he findsmore lives thriving than you could ever shake a stick at. As heweaves his arid yarns, we suddenly realize that our normal view ofthe world has been turned on its head: where we once saw scarcity,there is abundance; where we once perceived severity, there iswhimsy. Desert cultures that we once assumed lived in "fooddeserts" are secretly savoring a most delicious world.Drawing on his half-century of immersion in desert ethnobotany,ecology, linguistics, agroforestry, and eco-gastronomy, Nabhanopens up for us a hidden world that we had never glimpsed before.Along the way, he explores the sensuous reality surrounding thismost useful and generous tree.Mesquite is a book that will delight mystics andforesters, naturalists and foodies. It combines cutting-edgescience with a generous sprinkling of humor and folk wisdom, evenincluding traditional recipes for cooking with mesquite.