Birch trees produce a lot of sap, and you can collect a good amount from a healthy tree a lot easier than you may think. While sap collecting is not that difficult if you have the right tools, the following project utilizes items that most of us will probably have laying around. Look at the steps below and see how easy it is to get syrup from this common and abundant tree.
Drill with big bit for the tap hole
1 Piece of pipe or tubing that is at least 4 inches long
Plastic funnel with narrow stem
1 or 2 liter empty soda bottle
Strap, belt or cordage
The first step is to find the right birch tree. It should be grown, sturdy and have a healthy appearance. You can tap any living birch tree, branch or even shoot in order to get sap. However, the healthier trees tend to produce more, and the finished product is often much tastier. Once you’ve found a good tree, you only want to tap it once in order keep the tree alive and healthy. Some people suggest that the tree can be tapped twice in its lifetime, but there should be a waiting period between harvests in order to minimize the impact on the tree.
The next step is to tap the tree. Take your drill and angle the bit slightly so that the hole will go up as you bore through the wood. It doesn’t need to be a steep angle, but just enough for the sap to slide out and into the container later. Drill the bit ¾ to an inch into the tree. Pull out and insert the tap pipe. The pipe should be snug inside the hole that you just bore.
Place the cleaned and dried soda bottle beneath the tap and secure it with the cordage, strap or belt. Slide the funnel into the bottle and allow it to rest beneath the tap pipe. Once the sap has stopped flowing, remove the equipment and tap pipe. Seal the hole by plugging some cork and pasting it with some pine pitch, tree balm or organic wax. This will protect the tree from infestations of insects, damage from moisture and rot as well as exposure to harmful microorganisms.
You can also tap a branch from a healthy birch tree directly without the need to bore a tap hole. This option may also be safer for the tree. Simply cut off a small to medium-sized branch and allow the sap to emerge and drip into the funnel. Choose a branch that is in a location where improvising the funnel and bottle attachments will be the easiest. When the sap stops flowing, or you’ve collected enough, coat the end of the branch with some pine pitch.
If you want to tap a shoot, choose one that is at least three feet long and part of a healthy, growing tree. Cut off the end of the shoot and connect a piece of aquarium or surgical tubing that has a similar diameter. Use tape if necessary to secure it in place. Slide the other end of the tubing into the empty plastic bottle and wait. This simple system can produce a good amount of sap on a daily basis for a couple of weeks. Remove the tube once the sap productions starts to slow. Cover the end with some pine pitch and you’re good to go.
Birch sap makes for a delicious syrup or sweetener. It can also be used to make things like pine pitch, sealing holes and a host of other practical applications. Learn more about the benefits of birch sap, and see how easy it is to collect and put it to good use in the field.