If you live in the Desert Southwest of the United States, you are surely familiar with Mesquite trees. They are a very hardy plant because the tap root can be larger than the trunk and can grow down to depths of almost 200 feet. This enables the tree to survive in very arid environments because the tap root can actually grow deep enough to tap directly into the ground water table.

One of three Mesquite trees in my backyard. Due to its height, I'm guessing it's probably a Velvet Mesquite.

Mesquite wood is primarily used for smoking BBQ and making fence posts. Bees that feed on the nectar of Mesquite flowers produce a fragrant honey. Beginning in April/May, Mesquite trees begin producing multitudes of bean pods, sometimes all the way through August.

Bean pod waiting to dry up and fall off.

Mesquite beans have been used as a food source by people and animals since, well, forever.  Native Americans of the area relied on the Mesquite bean as a food staple, using it to make tea, syrup and, when ground up, a type of flour called Pinole. Due to the fructose found in the beans, some local restaurants grind up the dried, whole, bean pods and use the Pinole as a sweetener in breads and pancakes.

With all that sweetness, it is no wonder animals forage on the dried bean pods that have fallen off Mesquite trees. In fact, late in the summer, Mesquite beans can account for almost 75% of a coyote’s diet.

Horse Candy: A pile of dried up Mesquite beans I gathered from the backyard.

And, yes, horses love Mesquite beans, too, so that’s why I call them Horse Candy!

At the ranch, there is a wooded area made up primarily of Mesquite trees. In the morning, Diana usually lets the horses out of the main corral and they head straight for the woods. They romp around,  play around, and eat every single Mesquite bean they find on the ground.

This past Monday, when Sunny came back to the main corral for lunch, she had cactus needles stuck all under the bottom of her chin, probably because the area around cactus plants is about the only place left you can find Mesquite beans anymore, the others having already been devoured. That is a testament to just how much pain a horse will endure to snag a mouthful of tasty Mesquite beans! 🙂

Oh, but what about Charlie and Quinn? Poor guys don’t get to hang out with the other horses. Not yet, anyway. So this new ranch hand, the one with the soft heart, starts feeling sorry for them. I figured, since I have to pick up all the Mesquite beans in the backyard to keep them from putting down roots, I might as well bag them up and haul them out to the ranch with me. That way, I can make sure Charlie and Quinn get some of these tasty treats, too. So that’s just what I’ve been doing. I’ll be taking another huge bag of Mesquite beans with me when I go out to the ranch tomorrow! 😉

Charlie and Quinn munching down on some horse candy, courtesy of the soft-hearted ranch hand. 🙂