Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cooking with Tree Bark.

Yesterday’s post on the use of the seeds of the pine tree reminded me that I had read of bark being used in some sort of culinary manner – but I could not remember the details. My first step down memory lane usually involves searching my own blog archives – and this time I came up trumps. The recipe I half-remembered however, used oak bark. I repeat it here, for convenience.

To make fine Rise Porredge.

TAke halfe a pound of Iordyn Almons, and halfe a. li. of Ryce and a gallon of running water, & a handful of Oke barke, and let the bark be boyled in the running water, & the Almons beten with the hulles and all on, & so strayned to make the Rice Porrege withal.
The treasurie of hidden secrets,  by John Partridge, published in 1573.

I also belatedly remembered that of course, bark has been used in times past to make a form of famine bread. An article in the Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art, Volume 26 (Philadelphia,1835) by E. Littell describes the method used to concoct this bread – and also the use of bark in soup - by the Laplanders of the first decade of the nineteenth century.

The Laplanders of Tryssild, and the mountainous part of Oesterladen, are said by Von Buch in his Travels through Norway and Lapland, in 1806-7-8, to make a bread, called by them Barke Brod, in the following manner.

"When the young and vigorous fir trees are felled, to the great injury of the woods, the tree is stripped of its bark for its whole length; the outer part is carefully peeled from the bark; the deepest interior covering is then shaved off, and nothing remains but the innermost rind, which is extremely soft and white. It is then hung up several days in the air to dry, and afterwards baked in an oven; it is next beat on wooden blocks, and then pounded as finely as possible in wooden-vessels. But all this is not enough; the mass is yet to be carried to the mill, and ground into coarse meal like barley or oats. The meal is mixed up with thrashed oat ears, or with a few moss-seeds; and a bread of about an inch thickness is formed of this composition."

In another place, the same traveller, talking of the Enare Laplanders, says,—

"In summer they scarcely eat any thing but fish from the fresh water lakes, and drink with great eagerness the water in which the fish has been boiled. In winter they must put up with dried fish, and with, soups of water, fir bark, and rein-deer tallow.—They peel off in summer, the innermost bark of the fir, divide it in long stripes, and hang them in their dwellings to dry for winter stores. When used, these stripes of bark are minced in small pieces along with the rein-deer tallow, and boiled together for several hours with water, till they form thick broth."

It is not improbable, says Dr. Prout, when speaking of this method, that during the above process the lignin combines with water, and forms an artificial starch; what the change maybe we will not venture to decide. As for the spungy bread made by the Tubingen Professor, we should like very much to taste it; but with respect to the poor Laplander's, coarse and husky variety of the staff of life, it can be, we greatly fear, little better than the newly-invented patent, bread of our own metropolis.

Now all I need to find is a recipe for wine or beer made from bark, and we have a complete menu!


korenni said...

I'm afraid of that fir bark. You may remember Euell Gibbons' ad for Grape Nuts -- "Parts of this pine tree are eatable." What he didn't say in the ad, but was in one of his "Stalking" books, is that the American Indians who ate the pine tree bark ate it only as famine food, and even after they'd prepared it and filtered it and done all that they could, it was extremely bitter; not something you'd ever want to eat unless you literally had nothing else.

Mantelli said...

I know it's generally non-alcoholic, but what about birch beer? http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch_beer

The Old Foodie said...

Of course, Mantelli! how could I have forgotten birch beer! Thanks!