Believe it or not, the trees that surround us could act as a source of food in the form of their bark. You may not have thought of this as a snack, but certain tree varieties offer bark as a survival food.
1. Willow Bark
Willow trees have bark that can act as a remedy for afflictions that aspirin is typically used to treat. These include headaches, muscle aches, inflammation, and menstruation. Furthermore, willow tree bark is cited as helping with the symptoms, prevention, and recovery of viral infections, like the flu or a common cold.
Willow trees typically grow near water and appear in clumps. There are many willow species that are difficult to tell apart from one another, but they can all be safely consumed for medicinal purposes.
Weeping willows are usually pretty recognizable, but non-weeping willows is more challenging. These trees typically have leaves that are long and lance-shaped with a distinctive ridge running across the middle. Certain willow trees possess oval leaves. The veins of leaves reach up each leaf from the central ridge. Most willow species have veins that are alternating or offset on the leaves.
If you’re looking to consume willow bark, the best time to harvest it is in late winter and early spring. Other times of year it is also possible to do so, but is less fruitful of an effort. Willow bark is best consumed by adding it to tea. However, don’t let the bark boil and don’t steep for longer than 20 minutes. Many cite the taste of willow bark to be bitter. If you find that to be the case, mixing it with ground ivy can help offset the bitterness.
2. Pine Bark
A commonly consumed tree bark in North America is that of pine trees. The inner bark and pine nuts produced by this tree can be eaten. For the record, chopped pine needles can be steeped in hot water to create pine needle tea, which is rich in vitamin C (however, this could be harmful for pregnant women to ingest).
Once you identify a pine tree and are ready to harvest the bark, you’ll start by shaving off the grey, outer bark. The greenish middle layer of pine tree bark will also need to be shaved off to prepare it for consumption. The inner layer presents itself as a white or cream colored layer. The bark will feel soft while the tree wood—just below the bark—is hard and slick. Peel off the white or cream colored inner bark.
Next, prepare the bark for consumption. You can opt to fry the bark strips for a few moments on each side in a pan with oil. Do this until the bark is crispy, and it should resemble a snack like beef jerky in texture. You can alternatively blend pine bark into other foods. For instance, you can create flour using the bark. To do so, dry the bark in the sun. It should take about a day to do this. Either use two stones to grind the dried bark into flour—which will resemble oatmeal—or use a blender or food processor to get the job done. Store the flour in a cool, dark place until use.
3. Cottonwood Bark
Similar to that of willow bark, cottonwood bark contains medicinal properties. It’s particularly good for consumption to relieve muscle pain. Cottonwood bark contains an abundance of antioxidants and is good in tea form for easing coughs and colds. To use externally, cottonwood bark can be made into a salve that treats wounds similarly to that of Neosporin. Cottonwood bark has a long shelf life since it functions as a preservative, so anything edible you make out of it is sure to last long. Keep in mind that due to the presence of salicin, individuals with kidney problems or aspirin allergies should avoid ingesting cottonwood bark.
Cottonwood trees typically dwell in wet areas and are common surrounding rivers. Their branches are usually thick and long and when full-grown, these trees stand between 75 and 100 feet tall. These trees boast triangular or teardrop shaped leaves with flat stems and toothy edges. During the warm weather seasons, these trees grow cotton-like, fluffy white seeds that shed from the branches. Cottonwood trees have thin, light gray bark with vertical lines.
To prepare the bark for consumption, you’ll want to strip it to get at the sticky little buds that live within the bark. Infuse these buds in oil and use it to ease the pain of toothaches or to ward off infections and parasites.
These are just some of the edible tree barks that can be used for nutrition and medicinal purposes.