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edibility of honey locust leaves/pods

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15213
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
In another thread, Dave mentioned eating honey locust pods. 

I've heard a lot of conflicting information on this.  Which probably indicates that it isn't a simple "edible" or "not edible".

I've heard that the pod seeds are too hard to eat.  But I know that squirrels will fish the seeds out of the pods.  And then I heard that you can feed the pods to cattle, and that the seeds just pass right through.

Dave!  What's the word! 




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Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
I would think if pods were used for human consumption, they would have to be used at immature stage, where the seeds aren't hard yet, like eating snap peas.  The mature pods I have broken open before and tasted the miniscule amount of honey that is in them.  Mature seeds would have to be grounded to have much use.  I feed goats the pods and the seeds pass through them and where ever I put the manure, have tons of seedlings coming up. 
I also have bought 4 different grafted honey locusts that suppose to produce good yields. 
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
There are two products here. 1) The seed & 2) The gooey stuff inside the pod between the seeds. This is very similar to tamarind or carob. As I understand sheep can digest the seeds, but most other animals can't. Either way animals will derive nutrition from the pods.

I found this information at http://www.pvcc.edu/faculty/awilson/agroforestry/, which I suggest reading if you want info on honeylocust or sources for grafted or seedling trees. That is the website of the chairperson of the honeylocust special interest group at NAFEX (North American Fruit Explorers). It includes research newsletters, etc. In other words, the author is probably one of the foremost authorities on honeylocust in the US.

Regarding the amount they produce, I would expect that random seedlings may not be the most productive. There has actually been a bit of work done on this. Thus we have several varieties of honeylocust that have been selected for pod production, notably Millwood & Calhoun.

Another great source on using honeylocust for agroforestry is Tree Crops: a Permanent Agriculture by J. Russell Smith.

As for human food, I don't think this has been explored in depth. I know that Keawe trees (a similar tropical cousin) produce similar pods which can be harvested and milled for a protein rich supplement (it tastes like Bit-O-Honey candies!). Advanced processing equipment may allow for the processing of the hard seeds as well as the pods. Either way, I've never seen the pods from a selected honeylocust. I'm eager to see if they provide more gooey goodness than your run of the mill tree.

The awesome thing about honeylocust for livestock is that their food is right on the trees and it falls on their head. However, I wonder if you could process the pods somehow (milling?) to crush up the seeds and make them digestable to more animals? If so, I suspect it would increase their protein content as a feed source.

*Addendum: I just read the summary statement at http://www.pvcc.edu/faculty/awilson/agroforestry/HoneylocustAgroforestry.htm. Apparently you can grind the pods to crush the seeds and feed them to cattle and goats as well.

*Another addendum: At the same link as above I found this interesting blurb of info that should provide an answer to a much asked question:

Honeylocust is a member of the leguminous family, but lacks the root nodules where bacteria symbiotically fix atmospheric nitrogen.  For this reason honeylocust was thought not to fix nitrogen.  Recent research at Yale University in the USA suggests that honeylocust does fix nitrogen directly in its roots without the formation of nodules.  Further research now being conducted will most likely confirm the ability of honeylocust to fix nitrogen although at lower levels than nodulating leguminous species.


So it sounds like the research will show that honeylocust fixes nitrogen, but not in the same way as other legumes, thus making it hard to confirm up to this point. This was strongly suspected due to its ability to thrive in nutrient poor conditions. I'm just excited that we've finally got some sort of answer from an expert on that issue!

I just got some seedlings from Millwood & Inermis Prolific. I'd like to get some more and plant out an area for future fall pasture. We'll see how they grow!

Cheers!

Dave


Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
http://TerraPhoenixDesign.com
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603


this made my day again! I just went to the wooded part of our property yesterday with the main purpose of trying to identify some of the trees. my dh cut some nice paths for me with the brush hog and after gathering a handful of blackberries to start my walk  I found many many honey locusts....I think......how do I distinguish between honey locust and black locust....isn't black locust toxic anyway. I figured that was what was bringing the deer in but I was unaware that it had the potential to be utilized as a food source by humans. oh and...apparently the thorns are a bit of a nuisance when they come whipping back at you after being pushed by the tractor though so says my hsuband! yikes!


[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
gary gregory


Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
Thanks for the info Paul and Dave.   We have black locust and are planting a lot more of them for future use of the wood.    We are going to double fence between paddocks with a 10 foot spacing for a variety of trees and shrubs and the honey locust sound like an excellent addition.  If sheep can digest the pods, I would think goats could also.   My neighbors all told me when I moved here, my trees were honey locust but further research proved they are black locust.    I found this link to photos of honey locust and the page contains a link to photos of black locust. 

http://www.pbase.com/hjsteed/foliage_locust
 
Lots of sites about black locust being poisonous.  Our goats reach over the fence and occasionally eat the leaves and chew the bark and don't seem bothered by it.  This occurs in areas where they have plenty of other food choices.

http://cal.vet.upenn.edu/projects/poison/plants/ppblack.htm


Gary
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Black locust leaflets are somewhat rounded, while honeylocust leaflets are smaller & narrow. See pics below.

Also, honeylocust will have have much longer thorns (2-6 inches!) unless it is a thornless variety. Black locust have shorter thorns.

Leaf pics below: Black Locust first, Honeylocust second (the honeylocust pic is zoomed in further than the black locust).

Dave


[Thumbnail for leaf_black_locust.jpg]

[Thumbnail for leaf_honeylocust.jpg]

Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Here are some pics of the thorns for reference: Black Locust first, honeylocust (Yikes! You've got to be impressed by any tree with thorns on its thorns!) second.

Dave


[Thumbnail for thorn_black_locust.jpg]

[Thumbnail for thorn_honeylocust.jpg]

Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
here's what I've got.......now that I can see them side by side in the posts I think I have honey locust! do you agree?





Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Those are definitely honeylocust. The scientific name Gleditsia triacanthos actually means:

[font=Times]'Tri-' = Three
+
'Canthus' = Spine
----------------------
'triacanthos' = triple spined![/font]


Keep an eye on them and see if they're productive. If so, you could consider some clearing for pasture. If not, you could consider grafting them to productive varieties. Or, of course, you could leave them just as they are. There's something about a thorny, knotty mass in the right spot that's just perfect.

Dave
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15213
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
An enormous amount of information about black locust, with a focus on using it for animal feed:

http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/theses/available/etd-11242003-154755/unrestricted/etd.pdf


gary gregory


Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
paul wheaton wrote:
An enormous amount of information about black locust, with a focus on using it for animal feed:

http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/theses/available/etd-11242003-154755/unrestricted/etd.pdf


Thanks Paul, that is extremely helpful to me.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15213
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Gary,

As you are reading that, if you come across any interesting points you can summarize, could you please share them here?  Every time I look at that document, my mind tends to wander off.
gary gregory


Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
paul wheaton wrote:
Gary,

As you are reading that, if you come across any interesting points you can summarize, could you please share them here?  Every time I look at that document, my mind tends to wander off.


  I couldn't read it either, I found an easier to read source.  Seems to be similar information. 
http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/robpse/all.html
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I gathered from it that wacking the black locust of at .5 meters (about 1.5 feet) created the most forage material for the goats. the acid detergent and neutral detergent fibers (qualities of the feed) changed due to the growing conditions of that year (moisture/temp).

it has been shown to be as good a feed as alfalfa for goats in terms of weight gain. it produces a large amount of edible material in comparison to other browse species they tested.

it resprouts easily and it reproduces mainly from what amounts to suckers in my opinion but they don't call it that. they don't produce seed till they are six....I wonder if they produce seed even if they are wacked back to 1.5 feet?

produces excellent honey and is used in germany for that purpose.

it is prone to several insect infestations that prevent its use for commercial timber. its great for wood peckers.

the bark is the most toxic. and horses are particularly susceptable with death not being unusual after ingestion. cows are about 1/10 as sensitive as horses and not info about goat and little about sheep is available. (but since they used the leaves to feed goats to compare to alfalfa with great success I think it is safe to assume the foliage at least is safe for goats)

the leaves are extremely toxic to chickens.

tannins are a concern (or a good thing in my opinion if it is used appropriatly as tannins are shown to reduce parasites in goats) at low levels they can reduce bloat and increase bypass protein *protein that bypasses the rumen to be digested in the "second stomach" I dont' have enough time to figure out the molecular make up of tannins today to determine whether bl has the effective ones

thats  the useful info I got out of it.












                              


Joined: Jun 20, 2010
Posts: 34
I'm jumping in even though I know nothing of the honey locust just trying to learn more.  But...just reading this thread it reminds me a bit of mesquite.  Mesquite pod milling is becoming big here in the Southern Arizona with various groups, permies, native americans, etc getting grants to buy a hammermill.  Then individuals come and bring their pods to a milling event and pay a nominal fee to get their pods milled into flour.  The hammermill grinds up the hard seed also.  See more at http://www.desertharvesters.org/

Maybe if honey locust proves to be a great flour like mesquite, local permie groups could do something similar.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
HOLY CRAP them are some nasty thorns.

aren't there some sorts of THORNless honeylocusts?

are the seeds viable, will they grow plants fairly easily? I know they tend to spread from runners.

if there are seeds available of thornless ones and if they are viable and will grow in zone 5, i would like to try some thornless ones..on my property..anyone that would like to send me some seed i'll pay postage for them..thanks..


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
JL Hudson has seeds of thornless honeylocust.  They grow easily from seed if you soak it first.

http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/SeedlistF-G.htm


Idle dreamer

          


Joined: Jul 26, 2010
Posts: 21
Hi all,
I'm new here and this is my first post. I'm so happy to have found this group!

We are trying to encourage the thorned honey locust on our property lines, to create stock tight hedges.

When we put up our fences, (5 and 6 strand high tensile electric) we installed it about 6 feet inside the property line.  Then we planted honey  locusts and rugosa roses right on the boundary. The hope is that by the time the fence is rotting away, the hedge will be established.

We also tried hawthorns, but have given up on those because they are  PIA fussy about transplanting. 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
You might also want to try Osage Orange/ Bois d'Arc, which has been used for stock fence hedging in the past.

Our sheep like to eat honeylocust trees, so I'm not convinced they can be an effective stock fence.

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
this text often refers to them as edible as well as for fodder.

http://soultutor.com/pdf/Food/Garden/Forest%20Farming.pdf

Philip Green


Joined: Dec 13, 2011
Posts: 45
Location: Southern Ohio (zone 6a)
gary gregory wrote:Thanks for the info Paul and Dave.   We have black locust and are planting a lot more of them for future use of the wood.    We are going to double fence between paddocks with a 10 foot spacing for a variety of trees and shrubs and the honey locust sound like an excellent addition.  If sheep can digest the pods, I would think goats could also.   My neighbors all told me when I moved here, my trees were honey locust but further research proved they are black locust.    I found this link to photos of honey locust and the page contains a link to photos of black locust. 

http://www.pbase.com/hjsteed/foliage_locust
 
Lots of sites about black locust being poisonous.  Our goats reach over the fence and occasionally eat the leaves and chew the bark and don't seem bothered by it.  This occurs in areas where they have plenty of other food choices.

http://cal.vet.upenn.edu/projects/poison/plants/ppblack.htm


Black locust is not poisonous. This is a very common myth. Samual Thayer and Eul Gibbons (two edible plant book authors) both claim to have eaten black locust seeds in large amounts with no ill effects. I have not eaten them, but I plan to in the near future and have no concerns. Also black locust flowers are edible and I have eaten them in large amounts.

As for honey locust, I have eaten the hard mature seeds (roasted and boiled). Roasted they are soft enough to consume, though still a bit harder then anything you would normally eat. A bit of a sweet flavor. Taste pretty good, but it's a bit like eating a sunflower shell (in texture). Boiled I have made a honey locust pie (taste like sweet patato pie), by boiling then mashing the seeds. But they still give a very unusual texture, they are soft, but unlike any texture found in normal foods (and most people were not fond of it).

Samual Thayer states that immature black locust seeds are preferable to mature black locust seeds and I suspect the same holds true for honey locust. Though I have yet to try immature honey locust seeds (but will be doing so soon).
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I found the Honey Locust pods to taste moderately yucky. Slightly bitter slightly sweet. I imagine the taste varies as to soil. Most wild foods in our soil here are more or less bitter.

R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2415
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  28
Brenda Groth wrote:HOLY CRAP them are some nasty thorns.



And they are poisonous! You get stuck and don't take care of it right you may be losing whatever got stuck, or at least lose that muscle group and leave a nasty scar. Many old farmers in these parts had lost toes or fingers or forearm muscle to thorn infections--almost as many that lost them to the machinery.

The thorn is the first thing that comes out of the ground, too. A 4 inch sapling with three 3 inch spikes--natural caltrops. I lose tires to them every year, and several pairs of shoes. They will go through any shoe and many boots. Hard to spot in the grass, too.


"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Judith Browning
steward

Joined: Jun 21, 2012
Posts: 3337
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 stoney acidic sandy loam
    
109
R Scott wrote:
Brenda Groth wrote:HOLY CRAP them are some nasty thorns.



And they are poisonous! You get stuck and don't take care of it right you may be losing whatever got stuck, or at least lose that muscle group and leave a nasty scar. Many old farmers in these parts had lost toes or fingers or forearm muscle to thorn infections--almost as many that lost them to the machinery.

The thorn is the first thing that comes out of the ground, too. A 4 inch sapling with three 3 inch spikes--natural caltrops. I lose tires to them every year, and several pairs of shoes. They will go through any shoe and many boots. Hard to spot in the grass, too.


Yes, so true, we have roped off areas to be sure no one parks there when they come to our house, been impaled through shoes, stuck by a branch ...painful and some inflamation for awhile and they do not decompose for a loooong time....I've been stuck though a glove from thorns in mulch. We have a "grove" of mostly black and some honey along with persimmon, muscadine and wild plum but we don't encourage any elsewhere.

We eat and preserve a lot of wild foods but haven't considered locust yet, it's never seemed like a very inviting tree.


"We're all just walking each other home."
Ram Dass

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6563
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
Yeah. I know a guy who refers to his honey locust trees as "tire poppers".

Dan Boone


Joined: Jan 24, 2014
Posts: 303
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a) annual rain 42 inches
    
  19
I know it's an old thread but I thought I would chime in with my own experience attempting to taste honey locust pods.

For me, at least, they are highly allergenic.

It was last fall (pods already dry, still hanging on trees) when I decided to Google the thorny horrors that are reclaiming our former pasture. Discovered that they were Honey Locusts and that the pods were supposed to have a sweet substance inside.

So I cracked one open and put a tiny shred of the dried innards in my mouth. Yup, sweet! Put a slightly larger shred in my mouth, this time including perhaps a fragment of the pod itself.

Instant allergic reaction. Coughing, wheezing, mouth tingling, throat starting to swell up. Spat everything out, came inside, rinsed out my mouth, took a Benedryl. Symptoms went away, no harm done. But no honey locust pods for me!

That was probably in September. Fast forward five months, to today. I decided to pick up a bunch of dried pods and break out the seeds for saving. I've seen people looking for thorny Honey Locust seeds on various forum threads recently, so maybe trade goods to help me get a plant I want? Seemed like a good idea.

So there I am, sitting on my easy chair, leaned back, plate of pods resting on my chest right in my nearsighted field of vision, crunching them up and flipping the seeds into a pile on the plate. And darn me if breathing the dust from the crumbling pods didn't start making my throat tingle and close up!

I'll finish that project outside at arms length on my garden table on a day when there's some air motion to carry the dust away from me.

Obviously allergies are highly personal. But since I haven't seen any warnings about the allergenic potential of Honey Locust, I thought I should post this here for cautionary use by future tasters.
Johnny Niamert


Joined: Nov 08, 2013
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
    
    4
Yeah, for sure. I didn't have an allergic reaction, but here's my thoughts from another thread....

Johnny Niamert wrote:Watch out for the dust.
I don't know what sneezing powder is made from, but I suggest honey locust pod dust.
Paula Harper


Joined: May 06, 2013
Posts: 3
Old thread I know, but there doesn't seem to be much information out there about eating honey locust so I thought I'd add my experience. I have a mature thorn-less (but not pod-less) honey locust in my yard, every year it produces a number of pods and I find if I pick them when they are immature and the seeds inside are soft they are quite good, something like edamame. Our tree does not produce a lot of seeds though, in spite of the massive number of blossoms in the spring.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://permies.com/battery
 
subject: edibility of honey locust leaves/pods
 
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