The pods have a gooey pulp between the exterior casing and the seeds that tastes like the sugary insides of a Fig Newton(tm) type cookie. You can only squeeze out a wee bit from each pod, so it’s not a meal or anything, but it’s quite a nice sidewalk score when you get it.
Plants for a Future reports that the seeds themselves are also edible, but I didn’t know that at the time so I didn’t eat them. (If you have, would you leave a comment on this post and tell me what they taste like?)
Historic medicinal ethnobotanical uses for the honey locust tree include a tea of the bark to treat upset stomach, whooping cough, measles and smallpox. Delaware people reportedly combine it with the bark of sassafras, prickly ash and wild cherry trees to treat coughs and as a blood purifier.
Honey locust trees are native to eastern North America, though the USDA reports they have spread out across the U.S. everywhere but Oregon and Washington.
Back home in Portland, I have seen what I believe to be black locust trees instead. The black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, looks similar but doesn’t have those distinctive thorns coming out of the bark. Its seed pods are reported to be toxic. However, black locust trees do have edible blossoms in the spring or summer. The tricky thing is, there are cultivated varieties of honey locust bred without thorns, so there is some shred of possibility that what I have seen planted as ornamental landscaping in the parking lot of a certain local organic grocery store might actually be modified honey locust.
Bottom line: If there are massive thorns, you’ve got the right tree. If there are not, it’s a gamble.
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