Paper Birch – Betula papyrifera

Peeling bark of the Paper Birch
Peeling bark of the Paper Birch

…The Birch was very noble,
Armed herself but late,
A sign not of cowardice,
But of high estate…

By Gwion, in an early Celtic work of great antiquity

This native of North America has a range from Alaska to Newfoundland. The bark of this tree is flexible, lightweight and strips from the fallen tree easily, all of which made it very popular with many Native American peoples to make canoes, bowls and wigwams.

Birch sap has been used to make a pale green colored refreshing drink. The sap has also been used to make syrup, vinegar, and birch beer (a soft drink similar to root beer). The syrup is less sweet the maple

Native Americans use Betula papyrifera medicinally in enemas, to shrivel the womb, to alleviate stomach cramps and pain, and as a tonic (D. E. Moerman 1986).

The birch is considered a national tree of Russia, where it used to be worshipped as a goddess during the Green Week in early June. It is the provincial tree of Saskatchewan. The birch tree is also New Hampshire’s state tree.

At one time the traditional witch’s broom was made by binding branches together of the birch. Used in spells of protection, purification, for warding off negativity, attracting love, for new

beginnings, and changes. Birch is a feminine tree and an embodiment of the Great Mother. Cradles are often made of her wood as a protection for the child.

Birch Beer

Measure 4 quarts of finely cut twigs of sweet birch into the bottom of a 5 gallon crock.

In a large kettle, stir 1 gallon of honey into 4 gallons birch sap and boil for 10 minutes, then pour over the chopped twigs. When cool, strain to remove the twigs and return to the crock.

Spread 1 cake of soft yeast on a slice of toasted rye bread and float on top of the beer. Cover with a cloth and let ferment until the cloudiness just starts to settle, about a week but it depends somewhat on the temperature.

Bottle the beer and cap tightly. Store in a dark place and serve it cold after the weather gets hot. It should stand in the bottles for about 3 months before using. If opened too soon, it will foam all over and pop worse than champagne.

This is not a Drink for Children!


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