Black Birch (Betula lenta)
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Black Birch Identification: Medium-size tree with rounded crown and smooth, dark red to almost black bark. Broken twigs have wintergreen fragrance. Buds alternate, both side and end buds present, about 3/10 of an inch long, light brown, broadest near base and tapering to a point. Fruits are erect brown cones 1 to 1-1/2 inches long,
containing many tiny, winged seeds. Fruits mature in late summer and early fall. Cones persist into winter. Leaves oval, toothed, and up to 6 inches long.
Habitat: Forests or open woods, especially moist, north-facing, protected slopes; in deep, rich, well-drained soils. Southern Quebec, southwest Maine to northern Georgia, Alabama; north to eastern Ohio.
Nutrients: Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E. Calcium, chlorine, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and silicon.
Note: It has been recorded that during the civil war, the edible bark of Black Birch probably saved the lives of hundreds of confederate soldiers.
Harvest: Twigs, red inner bark, and bark of larger roots year round, but best in late winter and spring. Sap in early spring, 3 to 4 weeks later than Sugar Maple.
Preparation: Eat inner bark fresh as emergency food, boiled like noodles, or dried and ground into flour. Dry inner bark at room temperature; store in sealed jars for later use.
Uses: Tea, flour.
Harvest: Spring (sap & inner bark); All Year (twigs).
Black Birch Tea
Steep twigs or fresh or dried inner bark in water, or preferably, birch sap. (Do not boil. Boiling removes volatile wintergreen essence.) Sweeten to taste.
Black Birch also has medicinal properties.