Best Restaurants Are Serving Tree Bark

BOSTON (MainStreet) -- There have been recent reports of impoverished North Korean farmers reduced to eating boiled tree bark for sustenance. Characters in the best-selling novel (soon to be film) The Hunger Games resort to a similar survival tactic.

In Finland, bark bread made from pine and birch trees was born in a time of famine and remains popular to this day throughout Scandinavia (a tongue-in-cheek recipe can be found here).

Could bark now also be heading to a trendy bar or restaurant near you?

Just as chefs are rediscovering a "snout-to-tail" approach to meats, a "whole tree" approach to dining is slowly branching its way into the culinary world.

The idea of feasting on wood may sound more unusual than it really is.

To start with, you probably already eat wood on a regular basis. Though hardly an industry secret, many consumers were surprised -- after an unsuccessful class-action suit over Taco Bell (Stock Quote: YUM) ingredients -- to learn that wood pulp is a mainstay of a lot of fast food and processed snacks.

Breads, pancake mixes, breakfast cereals crackers, pizza crust, mashed potato mixes and nearly every product made by McDonald's (Stock Quote: MCD) contains wood pulp by its more consumer-friendly name, cellulose.

Beyond that ground-up additive, there are more refined ways trees are finding their way to our palates.

On weekends from Feb. 17 through March 4, The Herbfarm restaurant in Woodinville, Wash., will hold its annual, midwinter dinner theme, "A Taste of Trees."

The restaurant is rated as one of the best in the region by numerous guides and publications and named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine. In 2000, proprietor Ron Zimmerman was lauded as one of the nation's best chefs by the James Beard Foundation.