Sunday, September 11, 2016

Madrone Bark Tea - Warm Tea for Foggy Mornings!

In high season now, the bark actually began to fall in August and will run into October! This bark makes my favorite tea made from local trees, and my favorite year-round locally foraged tea.

Most trees have bark that come off in granules or big chunks, but the bark of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) curls and peels in thin layers, falling to the ground when the mornings are foggy and the afternoons are sunny in the late summer and early fall. Just clear an area under a Madrone tree on a foggy morning, and then pick up bark curls in the late afternoon when the air is warm and dry. The barks curls and uncurls as the humidity changes, often fast enough that it can be watched dancing in realtime.


To make tea, I crush a handful of bark curls into a cup (or grind them), add boiling water, and let steep for 5 minutes, then decant or filter off the bark. This makes a lovely tea with very little bitterness or astringency and a mild flavor vaguely in the range of Raspberry Leaf or Cranberry - you will have to taste it yourself to form a proper opinion. Sweetening the tea a bit strengthens the flavor. Stronger tea can be made by boiling the bark - the flavor gets stronger, but does not seem to change other than that.

Some important notes: (1) there are many species of Madrone, some common in landscaping. I recommend being very careful to identify the tree that you are getting bark from, and be certain it is Arbutus menziesii. While other Arbutus may make tea, I've not tried it - and getting the tree identification wrong could lead to serious problems. (2) Pick bark from trees away from roadsides and landscaping - often these are sprayed for bugs or by who-knows-what. We maintain a few acres of wild trees for this among other purposes.

If you need help identifying a tree, contact us and we can attempt to assist, or contact your local agricultural extension office. Enjoy!

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