Birch tapping, also known as birch sap harvesting, is the process of collecting sap from birch trees. The sap is rich in minerals and vitamins and has been used for centuries in various cultures for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Here is a guide to birch tapping:
Choose the right birch tree: Not all birch trees are suitable for tapping. Look for mature trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter and have a smooth, unblemished bark.
The sap rises throughout March and can vary from year to year, but each area usually has a 2-3 week window to do this process, the easiest way to check if the sap is flowing is to stick a knife in the tree trunk at an upward angle – if sap leaks down the knife then you are ready to get tapping.
Choose a spot on the south-facing side of the tree where the sap flows most easily. The ideal height for tapping is about 3 feet from the ground.
You will need the following equipment:
- plastic tubing
- an electric drill
- container for collecting the sap
- a piece of muslin cloth
- an elastic band or string
Use a drill to make a small hole (about 1/2 inch in diameter) at a slight upward angle. The hole should be deep enough to penetrate the bark but not the sapwood. Wipe away any debris or sawdust from around the hole.
Insert a tapping spout or tube into the hole, making sure it fits snugly. You can purchase tapping spouts or make your own from hollowed-out elderberry stems or plastic tubing.
Hang a bucket or other collection container from the spout or tube. The sap will begin to flow out of the tree and into the container. It’s important to collect the sap daily and refrigerate it immediately to prevent spoilage.
When the sap stops flowing, remove the tapping spout or tube and plug the hole with a wooden dowel or cork. Birch trees can be tapped multiple times during the sap season, but it’s important to rotate tapping sites and give the tree time to heal between harvests.
Birch sap can be consumed as a refreshing drink or used to make syrup, wine, or other products. It’s important to note that birch sap is perishable and should be consumed or processed within a few days of harvesting. Our favourite way to use the sap is to make syrup to be used in our Nomadic Woodland Belinnis.
Remember to always be respectful of the trees and the environment when tapping birch trees. Never tap a tree that is too small or unhealthy, and never tap more than 10% of a tree’s sapwood at once. With proper care and attention, birch tapping can be a sustainable and enjoyable activity.