It is easy to recognize this tree. The flower buds stay close to the limbs and the leaves will not appear until the flowers fade. This tree is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) and has flowers shaped like the typical pea family flower. The flowers have five rounded petals and ten stamen. The five petals are arranged like two sails, two wings and a keel. If you have foraged the Honey Locust tree for its delectable flowers, you will notice a distinct similarity as they are cousins in the same family. As a matter of fact, the flowers have a similar taste. The Red Bud flowers taste slightly sweet and crisp, like a fresh raw pea. Different trees have different levels of sweetness. So if you do not care for one tree's flowers, try another.
The flowers can be used raw in salads, pickled or cooked in recipes. They add a beautiful color to any dish and has the added benefit of being high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The tree will eventually produce seed pods that look similar to snow peas and actually taste just like them. These are high in protein. You can pick and cook them the same as you would snow peas. You must pick them within the first few weeks of them appearing before they get tough. The young leaves of the Red Bud can also be eaten. While the tree is blooming, it is a good idea to map out its location to go to collect some pods later.
This recipe is lovely both in flavor and appearance. It's a nice spring addition to my kid's afternoon snacks!
Red Bud Vanilla Quick Bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup red bud blossoms, stems removed (most time consuming part)
sugar for sprinkling
Combine sugar and eggs, beating until well blended. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Fold in red bud blossoms.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.