Tree Bark Eating for Beginners

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As the economy sputters, everyone's looking for new ways to save on food. That's why, we asked David Clark to collect a whole bunch of no-budget meal ideas for the new issue. Here are his tips for chowing down on tree bark.

A Nice Slice of Tree Bark

Picture 3A classic meal of human desperation, tree bark has become a must-have during periods of scarcity. But you don't have to eat it al dente the way termites and beavers do. Inhabitants of the Lapland in Finland, for example, are known to make bread with ground tree bark during cruel winter months, and several Native American groups use tree bark as a dietary supplement. In fact, the Adirondack Mountains derive their name from a derisive term for the Algonquin Indians that means "tree eaters." Not all bark is equally edible, so you'll have to experiment with your neighborhood flora. Some popular favorites include aspen, birch, willow, maple, and pine—trees common in cities and forests alike. So sharpen your teeth and dig in!

How to Prepare It

For the choicest strips of bark, be sure to go for the nutritious, tender inner layer known as the cambium. (Eating the outer bark would be no more pleasant than chomping into your bookshelf.) If some resin or gum oozes out as you pry off the main course, be sure to lap it up for quick energy. Here are a few fun ways to serve tree bark:

  • Raw. Shred finely and chew thoroughly.
  • Slice it into strips and boil it to make a rustic pasta. Top with sap, dandelion greens, or insect parts (see entry #2). Alternatively, you can add the noodles to a stew.
  • Dry and grind into flour. The ground bark is pretty versatile and can be mixed with water into a breakfast gruel, baked into bread, added to soup for extra body, or even guzzled straight like a Pixy Stick.

0805Of course, that just scratches the surface. The piece covers everything from how to cook leather, to eating and preparing insects, to a beginner's guide to scarfing down dirt! Make our editors happy and subscribe here.

(PS: The frying pan photo above comes from this great page on bark eating.)

August 24, 2009 - 5:26am
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