Vintage Uses of The Amazing Birch Tree

By Doug Williams
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Birch trees are not only beautiful but they are very versatile as well, and you should consider yourself lucky if you live in an area with birch trees nearby.

We have a few young Birch around Outdoor Revival HQ, but it’s nothing compared to many places where Birch abounds as the predominant tree. Usually, such places will be cold as Birch generally doesn’t like warmer temperatures, and in the US birches are mostly found in the north and the eastern states.

Dry Birch wood is a fantastic material for firewood: it is also great for carving and has been used to make everything from bowls to canoes and shoes to tipis. While canoes take quite a long time to build, Birch products are rot resistant, lightweight and easy to access, the Bark can be peeled off old or new logs with few problems.

One interesting and probably lesser known use of the birch, particularly in the case of Black Birch (black birch is one fo the few heat tolerant birches), is to use it to make tea.

The scientific name for this tree is Betula Lenta, often called Sweet Birch. In the past, this tree was used to produce wintergreen oil, but after the invention of artificial oils this practice has stopped, it still makes a hearty tea though.

If you’re making the tea in a pan or tea pot, you can use about a quart of twigs broken into one inch pieces, then steep them in hot water, when it’s all cooled strain the liquid, removing the twigs and other impurities. Reheat and serve with milk and honey.

The tea is quite delicious, and you may want to prepare more. In early spring, when there is more sap in the tree, the tea will be slightly sweet without having to add sugar. The bark needs to stand in the water to fully seep out the sweetness, so allow some time before you get really thirsty and make enough for a second or third cup.

Birch beer was made like this too! The sap from the tree can also be tapped to produce a syrup somewhat like maple syrup but thicker and heavier, more like molasses.

Birch is a good choice of wood for any fire but is a particularly good choice for friction fire building. A fire board and drill method with dry, dead branches work well, perhaps not as well as cedar or willow, but it’s good if it’s all you’ve got available!

The paper-like curls of bark that are naturally shed make an excellent fire starter: use this in the same way you would kindling and tinder. The material burns giving off an oily black smoke.

Birch bark covered teepee

All the species of Birch with this kind of papery like bark can be used. You will be best off using a lighter or matches to get the fire going, as an open flame is a good way to get these pieces lit. The strips of bark do not light well with just a spark unless they’re fluffed up and some power scrapped together.

Birch is an amazing tree, these few things are just some of the uses that the birch tree can be put to, there’s many more.

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