A Guide to Eating Tree Bark as an Emergency Meal

Outer Pine Tree BarkSometimes, you will be stuck out in the wild & starving.

You may wonder what would you do if you had no fish, fruits, plants, meat or berries to eat.

  • CLICK HERE to jump to 4 recipes for tree bark…

Thankfully, there is one place that you can always find something edible – trees.

While you may not realize it, you can eat the bark of some plants to stay alive. While its ingestion may not sound too appetizing, it is a readily available source of food that often goes overlooked!

Locate & Identify Trees That Have Edible Bark Easily

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It is up to you to pick the right tree to peel. This is a very tedious process because there are some plants that should be avoided, but thankfully, the majority found in the wilderness is safe.

The following plants are readily available across the country and should provide you with an emergency meal:

  • Aspen
  • Birch
  • Willow
  • Maple
  • Pine
  • Red & Black spruce
  • Balsam fir
  • Tamarack
Your best course of action is to only choose trees that you are familiar with!

Explaining how to identify each one would be for several articles in itself. Therefore, a few good guides to get started are listed at the end of this guide! Once you are able to easily identify trees, you can learn how to harvest the bark so that it can be eaten.

Pay attention! Risk of toxicity!

The following trees should be avoided:

  • Wild black cherry
  • Black locust

Oftentimes, a small amount of bark will be fine even with these, but they are very toxic when eaten in abundance. What is more, this survival meal may not be safe for younger kids, pregnant women and animals.

3 Steps for Proper & Safe Harvest

Harvesting For White Inner Bark

Please note that this should only be done in emergency situations and times of starvation as removal of tree bark will be taking away living tissue which can cause great harm and stress to the plant itself.

The part you will harvest and eat is not the extremely hard outside surface but its inner layer that is classified as the cambium. This is the material (often cream or whitish in color) that when removed will expose the actual wood!

Harvesting will require you to follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Identify an edible tree.
  2. Using a knife, peel back its outer hard skin.
  3. Tilt the blade at an angle to gather the cambium layer off of the wood itself.
You will notice a clear distinction when cutting through cambium and hitting the actual wood.

Ideally, you will strip off straight pieces of the bark so that it can be eaten. Once you have harvested enough, you will have to process it for a proper meal.

4 Easy Ways of Processing & Eating Bark

Recipe #1 – Fresh & Chewy

This is extremely practical!

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Fresh bark is easily eaten, albeit a little chewy at first.

  1. First, shred it into thin pieces.
  2. Then simply chew it thoroughly.

The taste will vary from tree to tree, but it will provide your body with the sustenance it needs to easily carry on with your day!

Recipe #2 – Roasted “Jerky”

If you have a pan and some oil, you can make bark jerky which is supposed to be like bacon, but it doesn’t taste anything like it.

  1. Simply place oil in a pan and heat it up.
  2. Add in the bark and allow it to cook on each side evenly before eating it.
  3. This will create a crispy jerky, but one with a rather bland flavor.

If you wish, you can try adding other ingredients to make it taste better. Salt and spices can help as well as any liquor that may be available. Obviously, in a true survival situation, you will not be able to be choosy and you will need to eat it as-is.

Recipe #3 – Cooked “Bark Noodles”

If you want to be creative, you can make yourself bark noodles.

  1. Just cut thin strips of the bark.
  2. Place them into a pot of boiling water.
  3. After the water has boiled enough, you will want to let it sit for a few minutes until it is tender to ingest and easily changes form.

You want to have a pasta consistency that will allow for easy chewing. If you are creative, you can make a pasta salad out of other greens and fruits that may be nearby.

Recipe #4 – Dried & Crispy for Long Term Storage

The final dish we will discuss is dried and crispy.

  1. Essentially, all you have to do is place the bark in the sun.
  2. Leave it there for 1 – 2 days so that all of the juice has left it and it is completely dry.

This will ensure that it can stay stored for longer periods of time without any rotting occurring. Although it may not be the ideal meal, it is packed with 500 – 600 calories in a pound.

When the weather is too cold or you have no other options for food, it will help you to survive.

9 Safety Precautions & Useful Tips

When eating tree bark, there are a few precautions and tips that you want to keep in mind:

  1. A sharp knife will help you to easily cut it off the trunk.
  2. Never pick a rotting tree or one that is diseased.
  3. Eat it slowly to see how your body reacts.
  4. Animals and babies may get sick because of it.
  5. Vomiting, fevers and stomach pains are signs of intoxication.
  6. Only choose safe trees to ingest as discussed earlier.
  7. Rinse it under water to remove bugs if necessary.
  8. Harvest it from branches and not the trunk to preserve the tree.
  9. Only take as much as necessary to avoid killing the plant.

Hopefully, you will never have to resort to this. Ideally, you will use this only as a very last resort the plant will suffer a lot and can potentially die because of this.

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About Jim Worthersky

Hi, my name is Jim and my motto to live by is: Hope for the best while prepare for the worst. My hobbies are swimming, hiking, hunting, scouting & crafting.

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