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Kentucky Coffee Tree Seeds

 
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After reading this article, Cooking Green Kentucky Coffee Beans, I really would love to grow some trees for this endangered tree and give them a taste.  Does anyone know of a good source for seeds?  Would really love to get some from someone who has selected them for yield if at all possible.  
 
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that’s a great article. mark me down for interested in seeds from a source that’s been selecting for production too!

i have some ~19 year-old seed from relatively undistinguished parent trees.
 
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I have a couple hundred seeds, they are a year old now but should still be viable.  Very easy to germinate once the seeds are scarified, I use a bench grinder to grind off a couple spots on the seed coat and that is all it takes.  Got 100% germination rate.  I planted the scarified seeds right where I wanted the trees and put a chicken wire cage around them and kept the seeds wet until they sprouted, all grew to around 18 inches in height by fall dormancy.  The seeds I have were wild harvested from the Minnesota River valley, with permission, from a very rare stand of original old growth trees on private land.  There has been no selection process whatsoever, which I understand is your qualification so you probably do not want these.



 
Greg Martin
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Tom Knippel wrote:There has been no selection process whatsoever, which I understand is your qualification so you probably do not want these.


Wow, those sure are lovely pods Tom!  Did the trees set them in clusters?  Really my only criteria would be that the trees are decent yielders.  I've seen pictures online of trees that set clusters of pods as well as trees that just have a pod here and there.
 
greg mosser
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how many seeds per pod do they have, tom? from the looks of them, they’re really not bad.
 
Tom Knippel
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Greg Martin wrote:Wow, those sure are lovely pods Tom!  Did the trees set them in clusters?  Really my only criteria would be that the trees are decent yielders.  I've seen pictures online of trees that set clusters of pods as well as trees that just have a pod here and there.



Heavy yields of pods in clusters last year.  This year the same trees have very few pods.  I do not know much about this tree type but it appears to have heavy pod production alternate years like apple trees.  Pods pick off easy by mid winter but they eventually just fall off.  Pods are horrible to shell to get the seeds out at this dry stage as the green goo inside the pods turns into a cement.

greg mosser wrote:how many seeds per pod do they have, tom? from the looks of them, they’re really not bad.



Seed count seems to range from three to seven seeds per pod.  The lower count is usually because there are empty spaces where seeds aborted.  Regarding selection, I can definitely see that being helpful because I noticed some trees had more pods than others, some trees had larger pods than others.  Some trees produced much larger seeds irrelevant to the pod size.  I do not know if it would matter but the dried pod colors between trees ranged from tan to black.  Cool to me to see the natural diversity.
 
Tom Knippel
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Tom Knippel
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Sorry for the blurry images, the photo hosting site I am using automatically reduces file size which is degrading image quality.
 
Greg Martin
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Alan also made a video about this that I just stumbled upon:

 
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Sounds good. I'm still working out how you would go about making the "bean soup" drink Natives made with these. I live in an area that has none, but should have once been inside the native range & the correct sort of habitat for these, so would also love to get my hands on some, next year. I have no clue if it would be too late to plant them this year. Shouldn't even have to go that far to scarify them, though, right? Just slash them with a box cutter knife, or something?
 
greg mosser
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the shells are way too hard and thick for a utility knife type thing. but sandpaper or a file works!
 
D Tucholske
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greg mosser wrote:the shells are way too hard and thick for a utility knife type thing. but sandpaper or a file works!



Ok, good to know.
 
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Greg Martin wrote:Alan also made a video about this that I just stumbled upon:

This is fascinating! And his cooking suggestions are definitely worth remembering. I thought I'd just be interested because it has the word "coffee" in the name, but all the ways he describes preparing them to eat sound tantalizing.
 
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This is some really great stuff!
I wonder if these trees could be kept smaller through coppicing or pollarding,so the green pods would remain within reach.
A flush of nitrogen should release with each pruning.
As an overstory tree the inediblity of the raw pods could be a plus.
Other tall protein producing trees fall prey to squirrels and their kin.
These pods might remain unmolested, even stored unsecured outdoors.
Run through a pressure cooker and then a garbage disposal,and you might have a decent winter livestock feed, or a great fertilizer.

A ball mill might be another way to process the super hard beans, but I think a hog would be the best way, assuming they could stomach them.



 
D Tucholske
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Well, I know they're a swamp plant, so they're not likely to get as big if they're not in a waterside environment.

It's also an ice age survivor that managed to hang on just long enough for humans to figure out how to keep them alive. Most North American plants in that category are usually ok for pigs & horses, though I'm not sure if anyone's ever tested this one, given how poorly known it's been.
 
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Hmmm... The trees are male, or female, or sometimes both. Like mulberries. I was not able to find how old the tree is when it begins to flower, or bear fruit. Did anyone find that info?

I really need to mke a site map for people who are not me, so upcomming food plants do not get destroyed before their time.
 
William Bronson
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I think the way unfertilized female trees produce empty pods could be useful.
The sweet pulp could be boiled and strained for syrup.
I wonder what kind of sugars it's made of?
They supposedly cause diarrhea in horses.
Perhaps they are largely indigestible, and therefore low calorie?
Cooking the poison out might change that, it's hard to say.
If they can be turned into a syrup, alcohols and vinegars could follow.

I know pitifully little about the true edibility of honey locust pods, but maybe they could benefit from the same kinds of processing?
 
D Tucholske
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I just picked some up on Etsy. It appears I don't need to stratify them so I am going to plant them now.

I found another method mentioned online whereas you break the outer shell by pouring boiling water over them. I would honestly recommend hybridizing the two methods, as the shell is much easier to scar after just a few minutes in said water.

None of my seeds are floating, though. I know they're big & a bit heavy. That's not an issue, though, is it?
 
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I got all excited reading about this tree, then realised it would need hotter summer weather that I get to flower :( . I might look out for some seeds anyhow, since it appear that the wood is excellent for burning and makes long lived fence posts: from The Ferns Website
 
Tom Knippel
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I just finished doing a germination test on my 2020 KC seeds shown in a previous photo I posted .  Ten out of sixteen germinated at the point I stopped my test, for a 63% germination rate.  A few more looked promising.  The first seeds sprouted four days after I began the test, the last seed sprouted 6 days after I began the test.  Decent results considering I did not have them set up under ideal conditions for germination and kinda neglected them.

The first photo shows how I ground off a little bit of each seed coat using a bench grinder.  Kinda hard to see, zooming the image helps.  Sandpaper or a file could certainly be used.  One interesting thing is that while grinding the seed coats the heat of friction put out a unique and rather pleasant aroma.  Hard to describe, maybe similar to roasted chicory root.

I plan on scarifying and direct planting some of my seed stock in early May.  I have a couple locations where I would like to have more of these trees.  I will use my homemade chicken wire tree cages to mark where they are planted and to protect them from curious critters.



 
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You folks have inspired me. I have a 174 seeds from two trees, but they're about 15 years old. Daughter wanted to make beads out of them but the drilling was too much, so they've just been sitting in a glass carafe as a decoration. I see some sources saying they can be viable for ten years, so maybe a few will make it 15.

The mother trees were also growing in the MN River valley, but on public streets in Jordan, MN, so maybe they're relatives of Tom's trees.

I didn't pay much attention other than when the trees were shedding tons of seeds onto the streets and making a big mess, but in my memory, that was "all the time". Now I wish I'd been paying attention.
 
greg mosser
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funny! pretty sure my seeds are even older but i may try a handful too.
 
William Bronson
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We found two Kentucky Coffee Trees while out on walk.
One of them consisted of two trunks sprouting from a stump.
They were 20 plus feet  tall and bearing pods.

The other thing I noticed was a lack of pods or seeds on the ground around it.
Are they decomposing rapidly, being eaten or did I just over look them?
Rapid decomposition would be nice.
Their compound leaves already seem prone to easy break down, not unlike locusts or mimosa.
If something is eating the seeds and/or pods, then they might make good fodder without  any special prep.

What pods we did find were probably from the other tree.
It was maybe 12' higher up the hill and closer to the street.
The area immediately around it was heavily and recently "landscaped", so no pods were there, but across the street from that we found pods scattered  across the newly laid sod.
It seems wind can distribute them further than I would have imagined.
 
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Love the thread.  KY Coffee is one of the most underrated hardy legume support species for our area and is common on our farm.  I have only had mixed results germinating seeds, with hot water and/or bench grinder scarification, so I normally pop up seedlings I find that have sprouted on their own.  The pods hang on the trees over winter here--they are still hanging in March, and out of my reach right now!  I do collect them though, as I never have enough of these trees in the permaculture plantings.  They are dioecious, so there are male and female trees, so some may not have any pods.  They grow quick, drop most of their compound leaves to leave a bare look in winter that allows the winter sun in--a great overcanopy tree for our area that fixes N.  A winner in my book!
 
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They are uncommon here in eastern Kansas but can be locally common. There were quite a few on my parents' farm, some of them quite large - 2 to 2 1/2 feet in diameter down by the creek. We cut a few that had fallen over for firewood. The wood is beautiful with bold bands of red and white and an open grain. Stained it looks like a tropical mahogany. When I was in West Africa one of the common lumber species was African Mahogany, "Lenge" (Khaya spp.) that grew with a similar habit and is also a legume with 8" long fat, woody pods and "beans" about the same size as Gymnocladus.
 
William Bronson
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I soaked of the seed pods in water.
When I went to but them open, I found lots guacamole looking gack but no seeds!
I think I inadvertently used all unfertilized pods.
It was quite sticky, but I wasn't prepared to do any glue testing.
IMG_20220330_182107.jpg
 Gook
Gack
 
Tom Knippel
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Yesterday I scarified and direct-planted KC seed.  75 seeds, 3 per location, 25 locations.  Next couple days I plan on getting another 75 locations seeded in the same manner.  Hopefully they will sprout, I do not see why I would not be successful as I am simply replicating what I did earlier this year when I germination tested the seeds.  I will keep the locations well watered, I will thin each location to one seedling later in the season when I can select the best seedlings.  I am using my standard chicken wire cages to mark each location, to protect the seeds from curious critters, and later on in winter to protect the vulnerable seedlings from winter grazing/debarking by wild bunnies.
 
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