The birch tree is a staple of the eastern United States and Canada. Far from simply decorative, this sturdy tree is among our more versatile.
Let us now consider the humble birch. It’s not the mighty oak nor the estimable maple tree that symbolizes the Great White North. But the birch tree, with its signature papery bark, is a cornerstone of Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canadian flora, and it’s one that humanity has made great use of for centuries. While the birch’s utility has been no secret, its versatility has expanded in recent years as we find new and different applications for its material. You may not know of some of these different products we get from birch trees— add them to your life and develop your reverence for this great American tree.
Every region of North America has its preferred soft drinks. Whether you call them “soda” or “pop,” of course, is a matter of where you stand. Chicago has its classic lime-candy Green River, North Carolina swears by the unique cherry taste of Cheerwine, and Québec is the last refuge of the piney notes of spruce beer. In the Northeastern United States, however, you’ll find another earthy alternative to root beer: birch beer, which distills birch bark to release its wintergreen-flavored essential oil for a nuanced herbal beverage. Curious, but living south of the Mason-Dixon and west of the Appalachians? You can have some birch beer shipped to your doorstep.
Perhaps more conventional an application than a fizzy drink is fine furniture. The pale blonde wood of the birch tree makes it a perfect choice for artisan armoires, cabinetry and desks. Birchwood is remarkably durable and features a simple woodgrain that perfectly suits the clean lines and austere construction of modern furniture. If you love Scandinavian sensibilities in your home, keep an eye peeled for birch furniture — and don’t worry about peeling off any of that bark to write on.
Biodegradable Flatware and Dinnerware
An emerging application among the different products we get from birch trees is a novel way to cut down on disposable plastic waste. When you’re planning your next party but don’t want to risk your own flatware collection or pay for plastic, consider birchwood forks, spoons and knives for your next big event. They work just as well as any disposable flatware, and these, unlike plastic, are biodegradable — that means you can send them to the garbage resting assured that they’ll break down in the earth and not sit idle underground for years and years. Better yet, if you have a compost heap running to feed your garden with “black gold,” contribute your birch supplies to the pile and feed your flowers with the resultant material. It’s a fine consolation for plants which couldn’t make the party.