Have you ever gone out into your backyard and picked raspberries to add to your morning pancakes or plucked fresh basil leaves from your garden for homemade pasta sauce? What a wonderful feeling it is to be self-reliant. Nature is the ultimate grocery store.
Black Birch (or sweet birch) trees can be found in forests from Maine to Georgia. American Indians brewed tea from the branches for stomachaches, lung ailments and fever. The essential oil (methyl salicylate) was commercially distilled from the bark and used for rheumatism, gout and bladder infections. It is an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic. Have a toothache? Chew on a twig until the fibers start to break up and then spit out.
Smooth bark and distinctive horizontal pores make the Black Birch easy to identify.
Scratching the twig of a Black Birch reveals a strong wintergreen scent.
When you find a good specimen that you have positively identified and it is not in a compromised area (i.e. roadside or waste places), please prune lightly. In all foraging activities, take no more than you need and no more than a fifth of the plant to insure the health and survival of the species.
- Cut or break the twigs up into small pieces and place into a jar.
- Boil some water and let it cool slightly.
- Pour the cooled water over twigs and steep.
The longer you steep it the stronger the flavor will be. It is great as an iced tea.