One of the things I’m into here at Rural Spin is edible plants. I know my plants pretty well, and it’s fun to know what I can eat in the wild if I really had to in any kind of survival situation. (Hey, I hike a lot.) Most people think edible plants can only be found during the growing season. Not true! Even in winter you can forage for wild edibles, and one of the mainstays is tree bark!
I know what you’re thinking. Eating tree bark seems so…impossible. It is bark, after all! But properly prepared, bark can provide needed energy if you really get yourself in some serious doodoo. But it’s not like you can just rip it off the tree and start to nom. The edible portion of select trees is the inner bark, which sits between the outer rough bark and the tree’s wood. Inner bark is paper thin, really, so you need a lot of surface area to provide any sort of meal. Because of this, stick to the tree’s branches if possible–going at it on the main trunk can kill the tree.
Once you get a hold of enough inner bark, you can do one of two things with it: You can either boil it and eat it out-right, which would be a low point in your culinary experience, or you can dry it and grind it into a flour, which makes a kind of cake when mixed with water and cooked near a fire. Personally, I’d go with this route.
So what species of trees provide edible barks? There are five trees in particular: spruce, sweet birch (also known as black birch), slippery elm, pine, and hemlock (the tree…not the poisonous herbaceous). We’ll cover plant ID in later posts, but just know those are the ones to look up if you’re interested in this sort of thing!