Edible trees: It’s what’s for dinner
Two Tasty Spring Edible Trees
an excerpt from Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual By Tim MacWelch
Foraging is at its finest in the springtime. Plant growth is fast, abundant and often mild tasting. These two trees are no exception. Redbud produces edible flower buds, flowers and seed pods. Maple provides early spring sap for syrup and edible seeds from their “helicopter” seed pods. Make sure you have positively identified these trees, and then dig in for a savory wild feast.
Redbud Cercis canadensis
Habitat Woodlands and their edges / Eastern North America
The redbud is a small understory deciduous hardwood tree typically 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9m) tall with dark bark. It is one of the first trees to flower in the spring. It has heart-shaped alternate simple leaves, growing on slender twigs. Before the leaves emerge, small pink buds appear and open into odd looking curved pink flowers ½ inch (1.5cm) long. To most people, these shapes most closely resemble bunny slippers. The unopened buds and open flowers are a great addition to spring wild salads, and they can be incorporated into baked goods for an interesting color accent. The small green seed pods that follow can be harvested up to 2 inches (5cm) long and cooked as a vegetable, however they are mildly toxic raw. The extremely hard wood can be used for a variety of tasks that require both strength and flexibility.
Maple Acer spp.
There are about 125 species of maples around the globe. These deciduous hardwood trees are native to Asia, Europe, northern Africa and North America. Maple has opposite branching simple leaves that are commonly veined and lobed in a palmate pattern. The two main food uses of maple are sap and seeds. Sap is collected in late winter and reduced by boiling into sugary syrup. Seeds are collected in the spring from distinctive fruits called samaras. These are the little “helicopters” that spin on their way to the ground. The nutlets (seeds) from most species can be cooked by boiling in water. Not all maples are edible.(check your local species of edible plants for your region) The wood is also useful for bows, timber and lumber.