I just wanted to provide an update on my experiments with Honey Locust this season, hopefully it encourages other people to try next year and we can do some testing.
In searching in my area for good sources for pods, I found two. One was at my old alma mater, Rowan University here in South Jersey. I found those pods in late September, maybe very early October. From what I'd read about the cultivated "Hershey" variety, which is known for its large pods, about 16 pods could add up to a pound. The pods from this site were close to that large, with maybe 18 or so adding up to a pound. However, I only took 6 or 7 pods, since this was my first time actually trying them and I didn't want to take a ton if they weren't my bag. I thought these were delicious and the pulp tasted like an overripe (in a good way) sweet banana. I'd seen various reports about whether you can pick them ripe off the tree, or should wait until they fall, but I picked these off the tree and they were really tasty – even my wife, who's usually skeptical of my new plant adventures – liked them.
The other pods I found were actually on my current college campus, where I'm in grad school. I collected these much later, just at the very beginning of November. Because it was over a month later, all of these pods were collected from the ground. The pods were notably smaller than the earlier tree, and so there was less pulp, but it was still relatively the same in taste to me. As a basic test of whether I'd be able to eat the outer pod as well (if ground up according to the Carob/Honey Locust powder recipe I listed in my last post, above), I bit the pod and chewed a bit, trying to get out the "honey" that way. It worked, but I felt like there was a faint "spicy" feeling in the back of my throat (felt more like way on the back of my tongue). Didn't give it too much thought, though, since I'd incidentally chewed a little on the earlier pods and didn't have any sort of reaction. I collected a bunch of these pods to make into a "cocoa powder" as that recipe described.
I soaked, removed seeds from, roasted, and dryed the pods, then put them into my food processor to blend up into powder. Sieved it for the finest stuff. A better blender to make a finer powder would have been preferable. Still, the finished product was definitely fine enough to treat like a cocoa powder, and looked like this:
To test it out, I decided to try making my favorite cocoa-based treat: brownies! (or, in this case, "locusties?"). I followed a recipe for making carob-based brownies, and they came out nice and moist and sweet, texturally just like I like them. They came out looking more like blondies than brownies. Bottom line on these: If you're looking for something that will replace chocolate, or even carob (a replacement of a replacement), you're out of luck. They really tasted good and pretty unique to me, but not chocolatey by even the farthest stretch of the imagination (and I can stretch quite a bit). Here's a picture of the finished product:
Here things got a bit weird. I ate the first "brownie" and that familiar spice/tingling at the back of my tongue was definitely there, and because I'd eaten a large amount of the product, seemed more prominent. I also felt very
slightly light-headed and it felt like my heart rate picked up while my breathing got slightly heavier. I'm totally food allergy free and also typically oblivious to things like that in my body, so the effect was definitely significant in order for me to notice. This effect only lasted for a couple of minutes, but is still enough to make me a bit weary. Here are what I imagine are possible explanations:
1. I have some sort of slight allergy to honey locust. This is possible, but it just doesn't seem likely given how much of the sweet stuff I've sucked out of the pods of the first tree I tried. I know in doing that I must have gotten some pieces of the pod, and they did not give me that weird tingly feeling.
2. Something changes in the composition of the pods between their early harvest time and their very late harvest time. After roasting I did notice a hole in one or two of the pods, as if a creature had gotten in and eaten some of the good stuff out. But I got that tingle even just form chewing the outside of the pod, so it doesn't seem like it would be the result of spoiling – plus, the sugars, which I'd expect to go sour way before the more durable outside pods, were still good.
3. The batch of pods I ultimately turned into my "cocoa powder" (the second ones, from my current campus) were from younger trees, and were also definitely thornless Honey Locust (Gleditsia inermis
), whereas I am 95% sure the first batch Honey Locust was the thorned, tricanthos
variety. I wish I'd paid closer attention to this, but I was just so excited to find a tree with such large pods! I plan to go back in the next week or two and double check myself here. If I'm right, this could mean tricanthos
is suitable food, while inermis
should probably be avoided. I plan to test this next year by testing both groups of trees, both in September and then both again near the end of their season. This should help determine if there is a difference between the two groups of trees and, if there is, whether this is due to timing or species differences.
Hopefully other folks will try this as well, so we can figure out the uses and limitations of this really cool tree!