Stacking Functions -or Ode on a Locust Tree

I spent the afternoon bagging up locust pods for my goats to eat. The locust tree is a perfect example of what Permaculturists calls “stacking functions,” meaning each design element should serve more than one purpose.

Trees do this anyway, right? Among many other functions they clean our air, stabilize soil, act as a sponge holding water in their root zone, provide habitat for insects and birds and maybe humans. All this just doing what they do best -being trees.

These ripe honey locust pods will hang in the trees all winter until strong winds knock them down for me to pick up and feed to the goaties.

If you think about tree selection and placement, your tree can provide food for you as well as other critters; placed on the south side of your home, a deciduous tree can provide shade during the summer, and let in sun for passive solar heating during the winter. They can provide privacy screening, serve as windbreaks, and the list goes on.

The locust is one such many splendored tree. It is a low water use tree, grows quickly, provides a gentle dappled shade, can be used for fence posts or firewood, provides forage for honeybees, birds and insects, and it will bear copious curly brownish-red pods after the leaves fall in the autumn. The pods will fall, too. Be prepared for that. But as a legume (it fixes its own nitrogen, too!), it provides nutritious edible fodder for my goats. And the chickens love the fresh high protein leaves and will strip a sapling dry.

Honey Locust Root Nodules

The nutritional value of a locust pod falls somewhere around that of oats or barley, around 15% protein. Supposedly you can grind the pods and make flour, but I would be concerned about soaking or roasting them first before using them as human food.

We have at least 20 thornless honey locust and many more thorny seedling trees. So far, I’ve bagged about ten 50-pound potato sacks full of pods, and they just keep coming. They make a quick shade tree, growing 5-10 feet in one season here in the Rio Grande Valley. They make a great living fence post, and you can coppice them for livestock forage.

They can be considered a weed tree, though, so think carefully before planting them. We have the majority along the western and southern border of our property to help diffuse the powerful sustained winds we get coming off the mesa.

Honey locust trees are spaced about 10 feet apart along the western border of our property. They help diffuse the intense western summer sun and harsh winds coming off the mesa.

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4 Responses to Stacking Functions -or Ode on a Locust Tree

  1. Erin says:

    Hello, I have a honey locust tree in my backyard and have heard that the seeds can be roasted and ground up to make coffee. Just wondering if you know how to do this properly? Also do the locust seeds have any nutritional/medicinal value after having been roasted?
    Thanks!

  2. Hi Erin,
    I’ve never roasted or ground the seeds for coffee. We feed them all to our goats (who are very appreciative!). Good luck finding out this information. Jen

  3. Kestie says:

    I have one in my yard that was planted in the ’70’s. It is in the parking area and every morning I am treated with the view of California Quail grubbing the fallen pods. Its a constant source of food for them all through the winter so its like having my own personal flock even though I am in a very urban setting. Its right for all the good reasons, fixing nitrogen and sucking away pollution and good for the native birds.
    I also enjoy a pair of Aztec Doves, Kestrels and in the spring we get several pairs of Pinyon Jays. I think that that tree attracts and keeps them here.

  4. Hi Kestie,
    Yes, aren’t they wonderful for wildlife?! Thanks for stopping by. Jen

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