Straight from the tree
The funnel cake and the bloomin’ onion are old school by now. We’ve seen deep fried Oreos and Snickers bars. A quick Google search reveals the advent of deep fried Jell-O and fried beer pocketed in pretzel dough. In Massachusetts, home to the baked bean, they’re deep frying jelly beans now. Each year I wait to see what mutant concoction will arise as the next deep fried, powder-sugared wonder on the county fair circuit.
But move over, deep fried Kool Aid (the new fair fad in California). Have you ever tried to fry something a little more close to home? Perhaps something a little more natural, plucked straight from the tree? After all, this is America; we can deep fry anything.
Last week, I tried an amazing new recipe: Black Locust Blossom Fritters. I made them with blossoms gathered from the old, twisted black locust trees that grow in a hedge around the former site of the farmhouse where I grew up. (As kids we used to run around playing that the puffy, white blossoms were “popcorn.”)
Last week was the height of the short-lived flowering season for this venerable native species. If you are lucky enough to have black locust trees in your vicinity, you no doubt know of the tree’s many attributes.
Black locust (Robiniapseudoacacia) is an extremely hard wood prized for fast growth. It is used in furniture and boat making and was used by native tribes to make bows. It burns slowly and produces high heat content comparable to anthracite coal. It is resistant to rot and very long-lasting—a reason why it is valued by local farmers for fence posts. The blossoms also have a lovely, sweet scent sometimes compared to both lilac and orange blossoms.
The tree is invasive in that it will crowd out other trees. It sends up shoots everywhere. And, I can attest to its dastardly thorns. I stepped on a few when I was a kid and had to have them dug out of my foot.
Black locust is a member of the legume family and produces flat, short bean pods in the fall. The blossoms of the tree are edible and some sources say the bean pods are edible also, but others insist they are poisonous. It is important to remember that the bark and leaves of the tree are definitely toxic.
The blossoms, which have a pea like flavor, are also used to make syrup. I even came across a recipe for cream of black locust blossom soup. And, fried in a delicate, tempura-like batter, black locust blossom fritters outshine any deep fried fair treat.
Black locust blossom fritters
(from the blog Southern Forager)
One loosely packed gallon bag of locust flower blossoms including stems
Two cups flour
One tsp. salt
Four Tbsp. sugar
Four level tsp. baking powder
Two cups milk
Juice of 1/2 lime
Oil for frying
Gently rinse blossoms and let dry. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix. Add milk, eggs, lime juice and mix until well combined. Hold the blossoms by the picked stem and dredge through the batter then drop into the heated oil. Fry until they are light, golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Feeds six.