When the first white explorers crossed the Alleghenies between 1775 and 1825 and came upon the Kentucky coffee tree, Gymnocladus dioicus, they collected seeds and cuttings to send to Europe where it was unknown. There it became a botanical curiosity because of its large compound leaves. This tree ranges from central New York to Arkansas and Oklahoma. The fruit is a pod four to six inches long (10-15 cm) with seeds three-quarters of an inch long (2 cm) embedded in a sweet dark-colored pulp.
Native Americans roasted and ate the seeds, made a black dye from the roots and used the pulverized root to treat constipation.6 Pioneers roasted and brewed the seeds to make coffee .
The seeds are referred to as "lucky nuts" by some country people and are carried in pockets or purses to assure good fortune.