> 'Not much to look at' April 30 2015, 0 Comments
"Well, they're not much to look at," he said, "but they make good honey."
After moving to Tennessee from coastal North Carolina a few years ago, this was our introduction to the black locust tree. The old man at the farmers market, who asked if we had black locust honey, added to his description:
"It's just a regular old tree, but in the spring they get these shabby-lookin' blossoms," he said.
This prompted a search to identify the black locust tree. And "shabby" is a good word to describe it, at least from a distance. The blooms hang in a pendulous cluster, sort of like a bunch of grapes, but from far away they look like a bundle of tattered tissues. Up close, you'll see delicate, white, sweet-smelling blossoms — which I have heard are edible (and sometimes deep fried) but haven't tasted (or fried).
Right now, at the end of April, which is a late bloom for this tree, you can see black locust trees in bloom all over the middle Tennessee area. Native to the southeast, and considered invasive in some areas, we have seen many of these trees along I-40, and on the edges of fields and pastures, where they haven't yet been crowded out by more aggressive trees.
More importantly, our bees are feasting on these blossoms! Black locust honey is sought after because it is a hard nectar flow to "catch." Tennessee springs are usually wet, and often cold, two things which keep honeybees from foraging this short-lived nectar source. It's a special treat to have black locust nectar filling out the taste of our spring honey, and we're looking forward to finding out what this vintage will taste like.
Black locust trees may not be "much to look at," but their nectar is really something to savor.