Thursday, June 2, 2011

Black Locust Flowers

Black locust flower doughnuts

Black locust flower clusters and leaves

There is about one week in late 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, syrups, and pancakes. The taste of the raw flowers is sweet like fresh peas. 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. If the blossoms are browned or falling to the ground, it is too late to pick them.
Black locust custard

Flower and citrus
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 green cluster stem and add them to pancakes and doughnut batter, or add them to an egg custard. Robert makes a sweet drink with the flowers steeped in water, honey, and lemon juice. Last year we made a peasant wine with the blossoms, and it is fantastic--floral, mostly dry, and wonderfully clarified. This year we have also made some black locust flower jelly and some flower-scented sugar. Robert also made a black locust blossom syrup, which we mix with seltzer for a bubbly non-alcoholic cocktail.


Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Can you eat the seeds in from the black locust tree pods? I read that you could, but others say they are poisonous.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Sooooo yummy!

The 3 Foragers said...

We generally won't eat something if more than one source says it could make you ill. We have not tried the seeds.

Ann W said...

Could I have a recipe for your honey locust blossom wine?
Ann Wirtek

The 3 Foragers said...

The wine we made was made by guessing and Hunagrian tradition. We took a bunch of flowers (about 8 c.), one cut up lemon, and added maybe 2 c. sugar and enough water to fill a 1 gallon jar. It sat in the gallon jar for 10 days in a window, and then we filtered the solids out, then added half an envelope of wine yeast and topped the jug with an airlock. It will stay there until it stops bubbling, then we'll bottle it and let it settle for about a year.

Jen said...

how did the wine turn out?

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious if/how the wine turned out

The 3 Foragers said...

After a second racking, it is very pale yellow, and slightly dry. It is also all gone, so it worked well!