Early Spring Harvesting: Kentucky Coffee Tree
by Linda Conroy
At the end of March here in the Midwest, at first glance, it may appear that there is nothing to harvest, that the plants are still dormant. But nothing could be further from the truth. Tree sap is flowing, the birds are singing and we are offered warm days here and there, to reassure us that the plants are indeed ready to burst through the soil.
One of the first things that we forage is sap from the maple trees that tower over Moonwise Herbs Homestead. The sap is such a delight in so many ways. I cook with it, I infuse herbs in it for infusions and I do boil some of it down for syrup. The maple syrup is delightful, as it is cooked down over a fire which leaves the syrup with a hint of smoke when you taste it.
We also harvest seeds throughout the winter from the Kentucky Coffee Tree. Last week my apprentices and I processed the seeds of the tree, removing them from their pod, then roasting them in the convection oven and grinding them into a powder. We brewed this powder into a delicious “coffee” style drink and used the maple sap as the water for our beverage. This beverage is rich in minerals and adding a little maple syrup makes this a delicious warm treat, on the remaining cold days.
The maple sap has been flowing for a couple of weeks and is slowing down. I harvested enough sap to produce syrup for my small homestead for the upcoming year and look forward to many more beverages to come.
Kentucky Coffee Tree Ground Seed Recipe Sweetened
with Maple Sap and Syrup
To prepare the Kentucky coffee bean seeds, place them in an oven, I use my convection oven so the roast is even. I set the oven at 350 degrees and roast until they begin popping in the oven and they smell vaguely like chocolate.
Once they are roasted, I place them in a coffee grinder or for larger amounts I put them in my Vitamix blender and grind them into a coarse or fine grind.
I like to pour boiling sap over the grounds and let them steep for a couple of hours, then strain, reheat, add maple syrup, a spot of milk, and enjoy!
inda Conroy is a bioregional, wise woman herbalist, educator, wildcrafter, permaculturist and an advocate for women's health.
She is the proprietress of Moonwise Herbs and the founder of Wild Eats: a movement to encourage people and communities to incorporate whole and wild food into their daily lives. Linda is also the founder of the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference and Mycelium Mysteries: A Women's Mushroom Conference.
She is passionate about women's health and has been working with women for over 20 years in a wide variety of settings. Linda is a student of nonviolent communication and she has a masters degree in Social Work as well as Law and Social Policy. Linda has been offering hands on herbal programs and food education classes for well over a decade. She has completed two herbal apprenticeship programs, one of which was with Susun Weed at the Wise Woman Center and she has a certificate in Permaculture Design.
Linda is a curious woman whose primary teachers are the plants; they never cease to instill a sense of awe and amazement.Her poetic friend Julene Tripp Weaver, eloquently describes Linda when she writes, "She listens to the bees, takes tips from the moon, and follows her heart."