How to tap birch trees for sap

Written by ann wolters
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You may tap any variety of birch for sweet and tasty sap. Sometimes black and golden birch sap, with their distinct wintergreen flavour, are preferred. But birch sap from any sort of tree--deep, velvety and perhaps carmel-like--has a complex and versatile flavour. Birch sap also contains vitamin C, manganese, potassium and calcium. Though birch syrup production is growing in Alaska, birch tapping is not so common elsewhere. Perhaps it is because more than 100 gallons of birch sap are needed to make a single gallon of birch syrup. The sap has other uses as well. Some people drink the sap straight, while it also finds its way into soups, salad dressings, candy, and even beer and wine.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Drill
  • 5/16-inch drill bit
  • Drill brace
  • Spiles
  • Hammer
  • 2 squirt bottles
  • Water solution with 10 per cent bleach
  • Water
  • Collection buckets

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  1. 1

    Break off the tip of a small birch branch. If sap oozes out, then the tree is ready to be tapped.

  2. 2

    Drill an inch-deep hole in the birch tree about waist high. Use a brace and drill at a slightly upward angle of about 10 per cent.

  3. 3

    Tap the spile gently into the hole with a hammer. Squirt a 10 per cent bleach solution into the hole to discourage bacterial growth, and then rinse it out with water. Hang the bucket on the spile.

  4. 4

    Repeat the process on other birch trees. Usually, only one tap per tree is recommended.

  5. 5

    Collect the sap daily. If the weather is warm, keep in mind that birch sap spoils quickly so more frequent collection may be necessary.

  6. 6

    Discontinue sap collection as soon as the birch tree buds. At this point the sap gets cloudy and the taste changes drastically. Pull the spiles out of the birch trees and allow them to heal by themselves. Placing anything on the holes does more harm than good, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Tips and warnings

  • Avoid tapping trees that are smaller than 10 inches in diameter, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension advises.

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