Under the Shade of a Bayawonn Tree
Opportunity is all around us. The other day, Theo, our Cap-Haitien Regional Director, was strolling around our farm and nursery site in Limonade, when he noticed a considerable presence of dry pea pods scattered from trees in the area. He put on his thinking cap and discovered that these pods, or gous in Haitian Creole, are a rich natural resource benefiting man, beast, and earth. The mother tree of the pea pods is the Haitian Bayawonn, more recognizable to foreigners as a part of the Mesquite family. Its scientific name is Prosopis Juliflora.
Mesquite or Bayawonn is an extremely hardy, drought-tolerant plant due to its incredible ability to draw water from deep, hidden sources through its long taproots (recorded reaching up to 58 m depth), while also able to access water closer to the surface depending upon availability. It flourishes in the Southwest region of the United States, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and many countries throughout the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa.
Though some find this tree a nuisance because it competes with other plants for moisture, grows long, ominous thorns, and is extremely difficult to eradicate due to its impressive regenerative capacity, SOIL saw immediate potential in this plant as an addition to the arsenal of cover material for our EcoSan toilets. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! (Or grind them up and throw them on your poop! ) The pods are plentiful, provide a deliciously sweet and nutty odor when ground up, and, most importantly, as a legume, have a strong nitrogen-fixing quality, which improves soil fertility. We look forward to examining the effects of this quality not only in the soil where it grows, but also in soil produced through the composting of the poop it covers!
The benefits of the Bayawonn extend far beyond its use as an EcoSan toilet cover material however! These trees grow quickly and provide shade and wildlife habitat where other trees will not grow. The wood is dense and hard, ideal for furniture, tools, and decorative work, and when used for fuel burns slow and very hot. Animals love the nutrient-rich bean pods. The leaves can be brewed for medicinal purposes, and the pods can be dried and ground into a flour to add a sweet, nutty taste to baked goods or used to make jellies and wines. This powder, which is glucose free and about 17% protein, is also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, and rich in the amino acid lysine.
Theo has employed some neighbors to his home and the SOIL farm to collect these abandoned super-food pods for experimentation in our compost and farm projects. (And who knows! There might be some experimentation in the kitchen too!)
Working with SOIL provides a constant reminder to keep your eyes, heart, and mind going about your daily business. You never know what wealth of resource might lie at your feet (or at your fingertips as you send it flushing down the toilet!)