Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Huisache: Texas Brushlands Sweet Honey

Huisache, Acacia farnesiana, is one of those plants people either love or hate.  Folks who see the world as nothing more than fields of grass find the little huisache tree an eye sore.  They want grass to feed cows and as such their collective myopia blinds them from the many good things associated with this legume.  Native Americans living along the Rio Grande and into the desert regions and thick brushlands found huisache useful for everything from making selfbows and eating utensils to fabricating their jacales—the high R-value mud and stick dwellings they lived in.  Huisache was also believed to be a viable food source though evidence on exactly how the seeds or beans were prepared remains sketchy.

 For me huisache has always marked the arrival of springtime.  Strange how we’re in the middle of winter and yet all around me spring is breaking out.  Heads up folks, this may mean we’re in for a brutal summer.  I know huisache is blooming far in advance of actually seeing the flowers.  There is no way to adequately describe the aroma of huisache blooms other than to say that no commercial perfume maker has ever produced anything that matches the sweet and delicate fragrance of a huisache tree heavy with flowers.  I’ll be walking along the trail and a timid redolence—nothing harsh or overpowering—will waft across the path.  I begin searching the woods looking for the tree, and then as the trail rounds a bend I’ll see a mass of brilliant yellow.  Spring has arrived.

Now the bees are at work.  Master bee keepers, those who specialize in exotic Brushland honeys, will safeguard groves of huisache because they know the huisache bloom produces nectar for the gods.  Pale yellow, almost clear, the huisache’s honey is so tantalizing that once you have tasted it you will never be pleased with the mundane honey bought at the local grocery store.  Indeed, huisache (along with mesquite) produces honey superior to perhaps any other bloom.  Finding it pure is hard and expensive.  Interestingly, huisache blooms have been used as an ingredient in fine perfumes.  But to my mind nothing matches huisache in its natural state.  A quiet walk amidst huisaches in bloom is hypnotic.

Now the birds are mating and the huisache tree will play a part in the beginning of new life.  Soon the ghost doves (white-tipped doves) and mourning doves will be making their nests amidst its thorn-ridden branches.  As will other bird species and by May the trees will be dotted with nests.  Perhaps another blooming will arrive in mid-summer if all goes well.  I’ll be waiting.  One more thing: It's pronounced Wee-Sach-Ay.