Visiting Moloka’i has been such a beautiful experience. The moist air, the sound of the waves, and the lush green environment are so far from Arizona’s desert climate, the it’s hard to imagine anything in common. But as I walked around the island with my friend, Tina, I noticed that one of the predominant trees looked an awful lot like our Mesquite.
In the town I stopped in a shop to ask about the honey they were selling. The clerk said that they had sold out of their most delicious honey from the Kiawe (Kee-ah-vay) blossoms. I wondered what that was so I looked it up and discovered that the trees I had thought looked like mesquite were the Kiawe trees, and they ARE mesquite (Prosopis pallida). Arizona has several native species of mesquite: Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina), Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens), and Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa, a.k.a., Prosopis juliflora). Prosopis juliflora, with its long thorns, is considered an invasive, noxious weed in Hawaii.
Mesquite honey, just like Kiawe honey is quite delicious. In Arizona, our mesquite trees bloom just after the citrus do, so if you harvest your orange blossom honey you may get a good harvest of mesquite honey. But really, if you are a backyard beekeeper you are going to get more than citrus or mesquite. That’s why I like to call my honey Garden Variety Honey. You can get a dominant flavor profile of mesquite, with the subtle nuances of whatever else is blooming, whether its herbs or garden flowers. I love it!
Back to the Kiawe and Arizona Mesquites.
Mesquites in both places are very hardy trees. They are drought tolerant, salt tolerant, and able to withstand extreme heat. Kiawe can grow much larger than mesquites in Arizona however. I’m guessing the moisture and volcanic soil help with that. There are some really great things about Kiawe and Arizona Mesquites beyond what they offer the landscape.
Besides being an excellent pollen and nectar source for honeybees, Kiawe and Mesquite pods are a great food source for animals and humans.
- They can be ground into a flour (see how here) and used in baked goods, pasta (recipe), and drinks.
- They are sweet tasting but beneficial to diabetics because of their low-glycemic index
- The flour is gluten-free and high in protein and insoluble fiber.
- See my post on how to grind mesquite pods into flour.
And everyone knows that mesquite wood is fantastic for smoking and barbecuing. That reminds me… mesquite honey does NOT taste like mesquite flavored bbq chips! That is a commonly held belief though, since the only experience have with mesquite is in bbq.
As far as medicinal uses, the Kiawe and Arizona Mesquite trees have leaves that, when chewed, can be used as a poultice to be applied to wounds. It acts as an antibacterial treatment as well as pain relief. You might keep that in mind if you happen to step on one of the thorns with your rubba slippa (Hawaiian pidgin for flip flops).
Check out these websites for more info: