Eating Bark: How to Harvest and Prepare Edible Bark Without Harming the Tree


| 3/27/2017 9:17:00 AM


 

Eating bark probably sounds like something you would only want to do in a desperate survival situation. But surprisingly, bark can be both nutritious and tasty. It is also something that can be foraged at any time of year, even in regions with harsh winters.

Bark has a long history of being used as food. Adirondack, the name of a region of New York State, means “bark eater.” It was the name given by the Mohawks to the Algonquins who lived in that area. The Nez Perce also used bark, not only as survival food, but as a food of choice. And bark is a traditional food of many Scandinavian cultures.

What Is Edible Bark?

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of how to eat bark in ways that are A) sustainable (the harvest doesn’t kill the tree), and B) tasty (not just “edible” but “good”), let’s define “bark.”

With rare exceptions (I’ll get to one of these at the end of this post), edible bark is not the dry, scruffy stuff on the outside of the tree trunk or branch. Instead, foragers are after the inner bark, which is the layer just under the rough outer bark. This inner bark includes the phloem, cambium, and outer secondary xylem (sapwood)..



These tissues combine in a layer that is soft, lightly sweet, and more nutrient-dense and digestible than the outer bark or the heartwood. Why?



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