… Margaret Barker, a Methodist minister who has written extensively on both the Old and New Testaments[, …] recently presented a paper at the Worlds of Joseph Smith conference, 6 May 2005, held at the Library of Congress. She discussed the image of the tree of life in 1 Nephi:Many of the minor details of the Book of Mormon become fascinating tidbits when coupled with knowledge not available to Joseph Smith in 1830. This includes the some of the many Hebraisms of the Book of Mormon, including chiasmus, the evidences pertaining to volcanism, numerous details about names, and a variety of Mesoamerican elements.The tree of life made one happy, according to the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:18), but for detailed descriptions of the tree we have to rely on the noncanonical texts. Enoch described it as perfumed, with fruits like grapes (1 Enoch32:5), and a text discovered in Egypt in 1945 described the tree as beautiful, fiery, and with fruit like white grapes. I do not know of any other source that describes the fruit as white grapes. Imagine my surprise when I read the account of Lehi's vision of the tree whose white fruit made one happy, and the interpretation that the Virgin in Nazareth was the mother of the Son of God after the manner of the flesh (1 Nephi 11:14–23). This is the Heavenly Mother, represented by the tree of life, and then Mary and her Son on earth. This revelation to Joseph Smith was the ancient Wisdom symbolism, intact, and almost certainly as it was known in 600 bce."Behind the Mask, Behind the Curtain: Uncovering the Illusion," review by Brant Gardner, 2005 FARMS Review (volume 17, issue 2)
What I think the critics mean when they say that "there is not a shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon" is that scholars have not felt compelled to become Mormons en masse because of the overwhelming evidence, including discovery of the original gold plates, that absolutely proves that Jesus Christ was on the continent in a post-resurrected state, and that there was a people called the Nephites living in a city called Zarahemla, with no wiggle room for doubt of any kind. But while there are plenty of unanswered questions, there are shreds all over the place. Why not have a taste?