Mesquite firewood burns hot, making it one of the top choices, along with oak, for those who want a fire that, if properly built, provides hours of warmth. Campers who build a substantial mesquite wood fire before retiring for the night can rest assured the fire will keep burning while they sleep and know they will wake up to embers hot enough to cook breakfast.
Green vs. Seasoned Mesquite
Unlike oak and other firewood, mesquite is naturally so dry that it does not require extensive curing or seasoning to make it burn. It will burn green and is rarely left to season for more than a year. To increase the life of mesquite fires, slower burning wood such as oak is frequently mixed into the fire.
Although mesquite burns hot and clean, it is difficult to ignite and needs plenty of kindling to get it started. Besides being even-burning, mesquite creates minimal sparks, so it can be left unattended without fear of its sparks igniting trees or flammable materials. Mesquite burns silently, with negligible popping, and creates a superb coal bed that stays hot for hours. It also produces minimum amounts of creosote, which prevents buildup inside of chimneys that create fire hazards. The smoke from mesquite is light, clean and has a distinct smell, especially if the wood is green.
Cutting and Handling
Mesquite is difficult to cut or split with an ax because of its twisted, irregular branches. Cutting it with a chainsaw is easier, and the knotted, twisted portions need to be cut smaller than other types of firewood to be stacked properly in fireplaces. Mesquite is frequently full of holes left by bugs that are full of fine sawdust, so it is messy to handle and store.
Origins and Growth Patterns
Mesquite trees grow mostly in the southwestern states of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona as well as in the arid climate of Mexico. The trees are so prolific they are considered pests by many ranchers and cowboys. When huge forests of mesquite are burned down to control their growth, just one unburned branch can allegedly root and regrow the entire forest in five years. Since mesquite grows this rapidly without irrigation in desert climates, it would become uncontrollable if watered on a regular basis. The above ground roots of mesquite trees grow in gnarly pipe shapes as they extend outward in search of water sources.