Monday, May 24, 2010

Black Locust

There is about one week in spring when the Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) blooms and we gather the flowers. The smell is sweet like a perfume, and lends itself nicely to sweet foods like fritters and pancakes. The blossoms attract lots of bees, and ants.


Black Locust is native to the Appalachian Mountain area, and is considered an invasive tree in other places. It grows quickly, and often in clusters, crowding out native vegetation and aggressively invading fields. The roots alter the nitrogen content of the soil. Most parts of the tree are toxic, causing digestive system problems. In late summer the tree produces flat, green seedpods that looks like beans containing flat seeds. It is only the flowers that we gather and consume.



The bark of older Black Locust trees is grey and deeply furrowed. The tree can grow up to 100 feet tall, and the trunk is usually crooked. The wood is very strong and often used in posts. The leaves are compound with 7 to 21 oval, smooth edged leaflets. On smaller trees, a pair of thorns grow at the leaf axils. The white flower clusters droop from the trees in late spring, making the entire tree appear white. Each flower in the cluster has a yellow spot on it's top petal, and the flowers look like pea blossoms. They are crispy when picked, and can be refrigerated or even frozen for later use. They are most fragrant right before opening, or within a day or so.



The best way to eat the blossoms is raw from the tree. Use them in a salad, or stir them into hot oatmeal. We remove the flowers from the cluster stem and add them to pancakes. Robert makes a sweet drink with the flowers steeped in water, honey, and lemon juice. This year, we are trying a peasant wine made with the blossoms. We have a letterbox available,Foraging Black Locust , in a small riverside park filled with very tall Black Locust trees.

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