Monday, December 09, 2013

Honey Locust Feeds Megaghosts

The Princeton Shopping Center has something for everyone, even extinct megafauna. Those lumbering megaconsumers extraordinaire have been no shows for more than 10,000 years, but that doesn't keep the honey locust in front of Bon Appetit from laying down an appealing spread of seedpods every year.

Munchables only a megafauna could love, perhaps, but a little internet browsing leads to the conclusion that the "honey" in honey locust comes not from its flowers but from the inner lining of its pods. In many legumes, including honey locust, this lining is edible, and may well have been eaten in some era before McCaffery's Market sprouted up across the street.

Passing by an even more opulent spread beneath a big honey locust in front of the university's engineering building, I found a pod that hadn't dried out yet, opened it up, and tasted the thick, honey-like paste inside. Sweet, and with a taste unlike anything else I could think of. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste, but that may have had to do with the timing of my harvest.

The honey locust, affectionately known by us botany types as Gleditsia triacanthos, is also ready in case some genetically reconstituted megafauna escapes from the laboratory (located in an unmarked warehouse on the outskirts of Princeton) and is not content with the tree's peace offering of pods.

Osage orange, written about last week, exhibits similarly archaic adaptations to the same ghostly clientele.

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