Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trees for Food – Basswood





Trees make a tremendous contribution to improving climate and environment of the planet. Many provide food for birds, insects, animal and humans. All know of fruits and nuts from trees but the flowers and foliage of some are excellent as food too. At the present time, when population of humans on planets has increased to around seven billion, food producing trees must become the first choice for planting in homes, towns and forests.

An earlier note in this blog described the Moringa or drumstick tree as an excellent one for food in warmer parts of the planet. Its foliage, flowers and fruits are all edible. In cooler parts of the planet another tree, Basswood is an excellent choice as a food tree. It is the best wild salad plant in North America. Basswood leaves make a good salad green in spring and early summer, when they are young and tender. They are best just after the buds open, when the flavor is sweet.  Its new leaves and buds are more delicious and crisp than lettuce and older leaves may be cooked as spinach. The fragrant flowers of this tree can be used to make perfume or dried to add to tea. Bees and insects love this tree and the honey produced from it is one of the finest. The tree has other uses as well. Its soft wood is used for carving to make beautiful sculptures.  It has a fine light grain and being light in weight, it has been used for centuries for this purpose, especially in Germany. The bark yields a fiber similar to jute.

It is also called linden or lime tree. The exact number of species is uncertain, as many if not most of the species will hybridize readily, both in the wild and cultivation. The Tilia species may be propagated by cuttings and grafting, as well as by seed although it is more difficult to propagate them from seed. They grow rapidly in rich soil, but are subject to attack of insects. 

Linden flowers are used in herbal medicine for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue. The wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection or ulcers of the lower leg. Therefore aside from its food value this tree is a medicine chest too. 

The basswood is great for wildlife. It tends to become hollow, providing sites for owls, squirrels and in the forest for larger animals too. The tiny nuts it often litters over the forest floor are edible to humans, tasting like sunflower seeds. However, the tiny nuts are difficult for humans to gather. They are a food source for deer mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and other small animals.  Dear readers do plant some in your home or near you and enjoy this gift from mother earth while giving a gift to her too by adorning her vacant spaces

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