The sap is rising

1st March 2013

One natural phenomena that at this time of year I am constantly keeping an eye out for is the sap of the Silver Birch Betula pendula running.

Every day, I have been out over levitra generic india the last week or so I have been checking to see if it is “the time”.  The window for collecting Birch sap is very limited, usually only a couple of weeks on any one tree and depending on the part of the country you are in, the weather and the location of a particular tree it can happen anytime between the end of February and in some years mid April if the winter has been extremely cold but generally the first two weeks in March is about right.

There are several ways to tell if the sap is flowing.  Some sources suggest that when the leaf buds on the Hazel Corylus avellana are the size of a squirrels toe that is the time to collect it.  This requires an intimate knowledge of a squirrel possessed by few, so perhaps is not the most practical method.

Hazel leaf buds

Squirrel’s toes for comparison

Another way is to, cut through the bark with a knife or axe. If the sap is running you should see sap dripping out almost immediately. This is a slightly heavy handed approach, and perhaps the best way is to neatly cut off a large twig and see if sap drips from it.  This will have less impact on the tree.

I found these Birch stumps which had been cut in the winter and noticed the moisture sitting on the top of them. On closer inspection some of them were literally dripping sap.

Sap oozing from a Birch stump
Sap dripping from stump

To collect the sap you will need some plastic tubing.  Bore a hole with a hand drill or auger the width of your tubing, the hole should be about 45cm up from the ground,slant upwards and go in to the xylem so about 5-7cm deep.  Insert the tube firmly into the hole and place the other end into your collecting container. A wine making demi-john is ideal.  If done correctly you can collect over 2 litres in 24 hours.

When you have collected all the sap you need, make sure that the hole is properly plugged to stop the tree loosing any more sap. Either block the hole with clay if available or known in a hazel dowel and trim off the excess.

The sap once collected can be concentrated to make a syrup, either by boiling for a long time to reduce it down or by freezing and then defrosting …..the sugar melts first and can be collected. You may need to do this a few times to concentrate the syrup.

Alternatively the sap can be made into wine or beer or vinegar.

Kev Palmer

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