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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Edible Birch, Chaga

Edible Birch, Chaga




White/paper birch, black/sweet birch, and yellow birch all have edible parts.


(Please don't take the bark off of a live tree unless you are in a true survival situation.  Look around for one that just died recently or branches that have fallen recently.)  

When talking about edible barks, it's not the very outside part of the bark but the inner part next to the wood that you want to get.  Birch bark can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, and beaten into a powder.  It can be added to other foods like soup and even be used in bread recipes.  The bark can be shredded in strips and boiled as "birch spaghetti".  The bark, twigs, and leaves can be brewed into tea.  Young leaves can be steamed or sauteed.  Birch has a wintergreen flavor, specially the black/sweet birch.  You can also eat the twigs and young leaves and buds (spring) of the birch tree, and the sap can be tapped and eaten raw or cooked.  It apparently can be used to make a "birch beer" also.

Many other tree barks are edible, Balsam Fir, Pines, Slippery Elm, Red and Black Spruce, Tamarack...


This is a large branch that fell recently.






This is a large tree that recently died.  See all the layers? 

Birch buds.



Update: I tried the birch buds.  Ugh!  Petooey!! Petooey!  lol  ;)  
I wouldn't want to eat them if I were starving.  Only thing I can think 
of is bad black licorice.  (I tried Maple buds also, not so bad, at 
least in a survival situation.)



This is from the white/paper birch.  I took the outside white part 
off.  It can be dried and ground into a finer "flour".



I'm not crazy about tea but thought I could 'bite the bullet' 
for the sake of my blog.  lol  I added some chaga to it (see below).  ...ummm.. 
yeah, not crazy about it; but if I were lost in the woods and got a fire 
going, I'm sure this would be a God-send.   :)



Steaming. 


Birch Bark/Chaga Tea.  Cheers!


Birch Syrup
Update:  Yep, I tried my hand at making birch syrup.  I didn't even know until recently that there was such a thing, but it takes a lot more "sap" to make syrup than it does maple, about 1:100 (ie., one hundred gallons to make a gallon).  That's why most people have never heard of it.  It takes a lot to make a tiny bit.  It really comes out just like water because that is what most of it is.  My first batch, I cooked down about 2-3/4 gallons and got less than 1/2 a cup, but it was worth it to me just to try it and see what it's like.  I love to try new things, specially "living off the land" types of things.  (Umm, technically, my first batch, I somehow managed to burn it and waste it.  shhhhhh)

I don't have fancy equipment.  I just used a drill and made 
my own straws/tubes out of plastic that I rolled up to fit the hole 
nicely. I used different containers, milk jugs, 2 liter pop bottles, etc. 




I like the smell of it when it cooks down enough that you can start to smell it.



I don't know how to describe the taste.  An article on Wikipedia says "rich and caramel-like, with a hint of spiciness".  I think I would agree with that.  It has a bit more of a bite to it than maple.  At least, that's how I think of it.  Tastes more "wild" maybe?


Yummy!

As far as "survival," it isn't very practical.  If you were lost in early spring when sap runs, you could tap a tree for water.  If a person cooked it down over a fire outside, it wouldn't cost much to make.  I made it in the house, which I'm sure used up quite a bit of energy.  I cooked it for about 15-16 hours total.  I didn't cook it on too high a heat because I read, if you boil it, it can get a scorched taste.  It actually didn't start to boil once the whole time I cooked it so it must not come to a boil too easily.  I had about 44-1/2 cups.  I filled the pot and then added to it as it cooked down.  I strained it through T-shirt material before I cooked it and then had to strain it again after it cooked down quite a bit because it would get some small globs in it.  Once it was down to about a 1:100 ratio, it still wasn't very thick but I didn't want to boil it down too much either.  I prefer to put my syrup in a small bowl anyway because I like my french toast to be as crunchy as possible and non-soggy pancakes.  :)  I just dip each bite and then eat it.  Yum!


Chaga is a fungus that grows on birch trees.  It doesn't look like a fungus, at least not the kind we tend to think of.  To me, it kind of looks like burned wood/bark on the tree. 
It's often called "tinder fungus" because it is great for starting fires.
It is claimed to have tons of antioxidants and have a lot of health benefits.  You can look up information if you want about it, but that isn't the focus here in this blog; but I'll share a few photos here that I took this summer.    


This is a huge Chaga I found on a dead tree.  It's dead also 
but would make good tinder.  To harvest chaga, you take off the black, hard, 
outside layer and use the brown corky part inside. 

Supposedly, the white lines inside have the most health benefits. 

Remove it carefully with an axe or knife, trying to not damage the 
tree itself.  Chaga eventually kills the tree anyway.






Just a couple articles I saw on the health benefits of chaga, which I don't know much about; so I can't say if I agree or disagree with this information (same with the birch articles below); but you can check them out if you would like.

Here are a couple of articles talking about the health benefits of birch
Article one.
Article two. 

You can even make a wilderness toothbrush from live twigs; and the birch, specially the black/sweet birch, is good for this with a wintergreen flavor.  You want to pull the bark off the end and spread out the fibers on the end.  You can hit it with a rock and chew on it to soften it.  I did one today to show you.  Yep, I chewed on a tree for you.  Don't say I've never done nuthin' for yah.  :)





Here is a Birch Bread recipe.  This is where I found it.  (Click here.)




Ingrid’s Bark Bread
100 g or 3.5 oz yeast
1 liter or 1 quart lukewarm water
1 liter or 1 quart rye flour
1.5 liters or 1.5 quarts white flour
2 dl or 1/2 cup bark flour (Ingrid uses bark from her own pine forest)
Blend the ingredients and knead the dough. Allow to rise for one hour. Roll out into smaller rounds. Baking time varies according to the size of the bread.
(I suggest for medium rounds which are the size of pita breads 10 minutes at 225 C or 437 F – sprinkle water over before baking)




 Thanks for checking out my blog.  Please feel free to leave a 
comment, tip, or suggestion below.  :)

9 comments:

  1. The tea really looks like tea! Now I'm waiting for you to make some birch syrup. I've had some: but if you're thinking of maple syrup flavor, it'll be a surprise. I've got some cut birch logs for making Christmas decorations. :) The Hen

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  2. hmmm would have to wait until spring. ;)

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  3. What does Chaga tea taste like? I saw you added to the birch when you made it to I think improve the taste.

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  4. What does it taste like? Not sure how to describe. Honestly it just tasted like tea to me, but like I said I'm not crazy about tea so didn't like it much. It doesn't taste bad. I just did the two together because that's what the blog was about. I made plain chaga tea before, but it was too long ago for me to remember to compare the two. :) To me, the birch bark part is just a survival tip that is good to know; but some people harvest chaga because it is supposed to have health benefits.

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  5. Oh, I meant to post another chaga picture. I'll have to look for one or take another one. :)

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  6. I never heard of this until my aunt told me about it a week ago. My cousin collects it and uses it for health reasons. I love to research healthy natural things and just so happen to love birch trees and bark for craft projects and fire logs. I'm so happy I found your blog today thru pinterest and will save it and follow your ideas on pinterest. My blog is www.blueberriesforever.blogspot.com. Although I have not posted for a while I hope to get back to it soon. valiegal

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  7. Chaga Mushroom also known as inonotus obliquus in scientific terms is a mushroom that grows on birch trees. Unlike other mushrooms that draw their nutrients from the soil, this mushroom draws its nutrients from the birch tree. Other than drawing its nutrients from trees, another unique feature of this mushroom is that it’s usually hard instead of soft like other mushrooms. The insides of chaga have the color of rusted iron and the veins are cream-colored. The texture of the mushroom is cork-like and it has a charcoal-like appearance.

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