Did you know that you can tap birch trees for their sap?
Birch sap is rich in minerals and antioxidants and has been used as a heath tonic by a variety of cultures for many centuries. It’s one of the first fresh things we enjoy on our homestead when spring arrives in Canada. Don’t be intimidated to try because tapping trees is really easy!
There are many ways to enjoy birch sap. You can keep things simple and drink it fresh from the tree as a healthy and refreshing mineral water. If you want to get more creative you can fermented it for a gut healthy pro-biotic, boil it down to make a syrup or transformed it into beer, wine or soda.
Tap in Early Spring
If you don’t have access to birch trees you can find birch water and syrup for sale in health stores and on-line. If you are fortunate to live near birch trees, be sure to plan ahead! Birch trees can be tapped only one per year for about three weeks.
In folk lore the birch is known as many things: The mother tree, Beith, Tree of Endurance and Survival, Tree of Air and Water, Betula Alba, The Lady of The Woods, The paper Tree, The Shining One, The Nurse Tree, Tree of Renewal and Rebirth. It was the first tree to grow after the ice age retreated. (source)
What can Birch Sap be used for?
You can make birch beer, birch wine, soda, syrup, fermented pro-biotic drink or you can drink the sap as you would a mineralized water. Birch water will go bad after a time so you will need to keep it refrigerated and use it relatively quickly. You’ll want to transform it into a finished product or freeze it within a week of gathering the birch water/sap.
It takes an average of 110 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of birch syrup. Making birch syrup takes patience but it’s quite delicious, but I’m sot sure it its worth the effort.
When to tap
In cooler climates such as Canada late march and early April are generally the best times to start tapping trees.Sap flows strongest when nights are below freezing and days are above zero degrees.
What does birch sap taste like?
Birch sap looks and tastes like water with a slight twist. Its really refreshing.
The basics of tapping birch trees
- Look for larger trees that are 8″ or more in diameter. Avoid tapping the same trees year after year. Keep in mind that you should only tap as many trees as you can handle. Birch sap only stays fresh for a few days so you can’t just set it aside for “later”.
- Select a location on the North (most shaded) side of the tree. This will help keep the sap from spoiling.
- Drill a hole 1.5 – 2″ deep at a slight upward angle using a 6-12mm drill bit. The bit will depend on your spigot so be sure to measure that carefully. You want the spigot to fit tightly in the hole. You want the hole to be closer to ground level but high enough that you can get you collection pail underneath it.
- Gently tap your spigot or tubing into the hole using a rubber mallet and hang your container underneath. You can use any food grade container you have, just be sure it is covered.
- Check your buckets daily and when the sap is flowing collect it every day. Productive trees should produce about one gallon per day. You can refrigerate or freeze it until you have enough collected but keep in mind it spoils easily.
- Once tapping is complete remove the spigot and leave this tree alone for the next few seasons. Some people will seal or cork the hole but we’ve learned that this can interfere with the trees natural healing abilities so we leave it alone.
The Many Surprising and Practical Uses of Birch Trees
You might also enjoy reading about the many other wonderful uses for Birch trees. Birch trees are remarkable: they can keep you warm, nourish you and even heal you. They have a multitude of traditional uses, all of which remain practical in this modern age. Read more here!