Sap - raw or cooked. A sweet flavour. It is harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk. The flow is best on sunny days following a heavy frost. A delicious drink, it can also be concentrated into a syrup or sugar. The sap can be fermented to make birch beer or vinegar. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- \"To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr'd together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm'd. When it is sufficiently boil'd, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work...and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.\". The dried leaves and bark from the larger roots are a delightful tea substitute.A wholesome, agreeable tea is made from the essential oil contained in the inner bark and twigs. This essential oil is also used as a wintergreen flavouring in foods.
The oil distilled from the wood is insect repellent.l The bark contains up to 16% tannin. The thin outer bark is waterproof and has been used as the outer cladding on dwellings, canoes etc. It has also been used to make baskets, dishes, buckets etc.Wood - very strong, close grained, hard, heavy. The wood is richly marked, it weighs 40lb per cubic foot and is exploited commercially for making floors, furniture, tools etc. It makes an excellent fuel.
An essential oil distilled from the bark is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and rubefacient. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, bladder infections, neuralgia etc. The oil, called 'oil of wintergreen', used to be produced commercially, but it is now manufactured synthetically. A tea made from the twigs is used in the treatment of fevers.The leaves can be chewed or used in an infusion in the treatment of dysentery.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Betula lenta. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. The bruised foliage has a strong smell of wintergreen. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process. Trees can be coppiced on a cycle of 5 years or more.Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus.
Problems, pests & diseases
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