Edible Tree Bark
A number of trees produce nutrient-rich material that is situated between the bark and the wood. , Elm, Spruce, Fir and Pine trees are just a few examples of species that can be harvested for human consumption. Pine is by far the most abundant and nutrient-rich option to consider, and fortunately, they are found almost everywhere. Learning how to harvest and prepare the bark can give you some food choices when other options are not available.
Harvesting the Cambium
The cambium is a thin, whitish and rubbery layer that rests just above the wood on most trees. It is important to separate this membrane from the rest of the bark in order to prepare it for consumption. The first step is to remove the outer bark. Some trees have a thick layer that will need to be pulled and peeled off, but pine trees don’t need more than a little scrape with a survival knife. The idea is to get behind the outer bark and scrape away the green layer underneath without cutting into the cambium.
It is also important not to cut too deeply and pull off some of the wood beneath the cambium during the process. The cambium must be removed by itself in order to make it easy to prepare and consume. This takes a little bit of practice, but it is very easy once you get the hang of things.
The cambium can be cut away, pried loose with the edge of your knife or peeled by hand, depending on the characteristics of the tree that you are gouging. The material feels rubbery, and it has a distinctive texture that resembles a thick layer of soft paint. Keep in mind that cutting out a large gap around the circumference of a tree may cause it to die. It’s best to cut vertical strips from the side of a tree, and move on to a different one in order to harvest more cambium.
Preparing the Cambium
The cambium can be consumed raw, but it may be difficult to chew and swallow. It also doesn’t taste that good. Cooking the bark whenever possible will make it much more palatable, and this will help to maximize your caloric intake.
You can boil the cambium in some water until it softens and becomes slightly translucent. It will be ready to eat once the color changes to a greyish-white and starts to feel like a thick pasta. However, the fibrous membranes of the cambium will prevent it from becoming completely tender. It will most likely have the consistency of partially cooked vegetables. However, it is much easier to chew large amounts after it’s been boiled for a few minutes than eating it raw. It will also lose some of its woody taste.
Another option is to prepare the cambium by frying. All you need to do is place the strips in some oil or butter and cook it like bacon. The cambium is done when it becomes brown and crispy. Frying will improve its taste and texture, and you can season it according to your preferences. However, the associated grease can also lead to indigestion and limit your overall intake of nutrients. This method is a great way to cook and store a “snack version” of cambium, but it should not replace boiling altogether.
Finally, you can allow the cambium to dry and grind it into a flour. You can incorporate it with other ingredients and make anything from cookies to bread or pancakes. However, this method is probably not the most practical during a survival situation.
Eating tree bark is not the most appetizing option out there, and it won’t provide you with the range of nutrients that are needed for long-term survival. However, it can be used as a stop-gap when other options are not available and you need to eat. It also provides a simple snack that can keep your energy level up as you are moving through the woods. Try it for yourself, and experiment by preparing it with different seasonings in order to take full advantage of this abundant source of food.