Two Edible Trees.

There is something very different (at least to me) about foraging from trees and shrubs versus ground cover plants. I can’t fully put my finger on it, but picking from a tree just feels more primal to me in some subtle way. I find this distinction to be even more pronounced when what is being picked isn’t fruit or nuts, but leaves, twigs, or flowers.

It is finally time to start looking up and seeing what is going on in the world above the forest floor. Spicebush’s leaves are growing fast, sassafras flowers are blooming, and this week I have gotten to try some tree products that I have been waiting a good while to sample.

Photo of basswood or linden leaves opening.
New leaves of basswood or linden (Tilia species) unfurling.

There are quite a few species of basswoods and lindens. Some are native and some have been introduced. All of them have the same edible qualities. According to Samuel Thayer, the leaves, flowers, cambium, and nuts are edible, but processing the nuts is too inefficient to make them be of any real food value for humans.

There are a few basswood or linden trees in the woods near our house. I believe them to be small leaved linden (Tilia cordata) but they could be another of the introduced lindens. The leaves are too small for american basswood. Usually I am very cautious with knowing exactly what species I am eating, but since I am sure it is some kind of Tilia and they are all edible I am fine making an exception.

Two of them are small enough for me to be able to reach the leaves easily. One of these has multiple trunks, meaning a whole lot of leaves are accessible. I have been snacking on the leaves and leafbuds all week, and included a few in a salad at supper this evening. They have a pleasant mild flavor that worked well with the violet, star chickweed, and aniseroot leaves that made up most of the rest of the salad.

Photo of flowers on redbud tree.
Eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis).

Eastern readbud trees are small understory trees with beautiful purplish pink flowers. They are a legume tree, so might be useful in forest/forage gardening as nitrogen fixers.

I have been waiting almost an entire year to try flowres from a redbud tree. This week I tasted a few from a nearby park, as well as some from a tree at the edge of our yard. Not only are they an extremely attractive food, but they have a very nice taste with a little bit of a sour kick.

Thanks for taking the time to read, please spend some time outdoors too.

Nate

* any pictures or descriptions of plants or information about them is provided for your information and inspiration. I highly recommend foraging, but buy yourself a reliable guide like either of Samuel Thayer’s books from Forager’s Harvest Press.

** I rely heavily on Nature’s Garden and The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer, and to a lesser extent Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill, as well as Abundantly Wild by Theresa Marone. All of these books are quite good, however I find Thayer’s work to be the most reliable and detailed.

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