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Home Bushcraft Wild Food Tapping the Birch Tree for Sap in March - Collecting Birch Sap a clean sugar rich water

Tapping the Birch Tree for Sap in March - Collecting Birch Sap a clean sugar rich water

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Collecting Birch Sap

During the first two weeks or March

In this article I will show you how to collect birch-sap easily and quickly during spring. Birch Sap can be collected during the first couple of weeks during March. This is the true start to spring, sap rises throughout the tree's in preparation to spring into life producing their buds and leaves. Birch Sap is a slightly sweet, watery & healthy drink. The Birch tree purifies the water, making it clean and safe to drink.

 

Identifying a Birch Tree

Im no tree expert, but I do know there's three types of Birch to keep an eye out for:

- Silver Birch - Betula pendula
- Downy Birch - Betula pubescens
- Paper-bark Birch - Betula papyrifera

I find the easiest way to identify the tree is by looking at the bark, take a look:


The two photos above are of the Paper-Birch (Betula Papyrifera)

 

Collecting the Sap

 

My method is simple and fast; a few feet up the trunk of the birch I line the tip of my knife against the tree, quite steeply at an upward angle and then give a sharp smack on the butt of my knife driving the blade a few centimetres in.

 

Give the blade a very gentle and small wiggle and you should see watery-sap coming straight away. If there's no sign of any sap its the wrong time for the tree, come back another day!

Once you have your slit and sap running, insert a small shaved stick into the slit at the same angle that your blade went in, this should be steep so that the sap easily runs down the stick and into your container. Make sure the stick is pushed in enough to stay and then if the sap is running correctly next go about rigging up your container to the tree, you can see a few examples here on this page.

It wouldn't take too long and you could easily have a couple of litres. Don't be worried about taking the sap from the tree, its not damaging, at this time of the year the tree will just suck up even more water to fill its supplies. Having said that there is no need to excessively harvest one tree, if you want a lot of sap use multiple trees.

On the right you can see how much sap I collected in about 15mins. I am quite lucky with this tree, its literally about 3 foot away from a stream so its got a constant supply of good water.

collecting birch sapcollecting birch sap from birch tree in march

 

Caring for the Tree

 

Be sure to never leave a forgotten tap running. When you are finished, be sure to press down hard the flap of raised birch-bark to close the slit as best you can. Do not leave the stick in the slit when you are finished and don't try blocking the slit up, just press down hard to seal the gap as best you can and the birch-sap will do the rest. Be sure not to accidentally leave any litter behind. Take only memories... leave only sap droplets... the slugs love the stuff!

 

There is an interesting discussion here that might interest you, its titled: Birch Tapping - Is it harmful to the tree?

Thanks for reading this article I hope you have enjoyed it and will get out and collect your own sap in future years, Enjoy.

 

 
Comments (25)
25 Monday, 10 March 2014 23:04
Vlaugh
M husband trimmed our birch over a week ago. It is still dripping sap/water. The tree is about 8 years old. Should I be worried ?
24 Friday, 14 February 2014 17:02
Frankmansbridge&live.co.uk
A great read I enjoyed it thank you
.frank mansbridge.
23 Friday, 22 March 2013 20:12
nimblehorse
nice one...Ialso saw the Rae Mears vidio, quite an elaborate tap....if you've got the time..
I like your Idea, its quick, simple & less damaging to the tree.

Good Health to you & yours
22 Thursday, 14 March 2013 09:03
Gwyn James
Nice to see this knife technique. Rather than drilling the tree, an almost industrial scale practise, Take what you need and no more, leave no trace ethics are being practised no one casually passing would see what has been done.
21 Sunday, 03 March 2013 13:28
Irene Brown
Learnt this from my brother Michael. After drinking a glass from him I have just tapped into my first birch tree. Lookin forward to reaping :)
20 Sunday, 17 June 2012 13:05
Ashley Cawley
Just March when the sap is rising, so it could change slightly depending on your area, generally in the south-west it's around the first few weeks of March, the further North you go the longer it might take for the sap to rise.
19 Saturday, 16 June 2012 21:36
si bush
This is a great skill to have really want to give it a try can u do this any other time of year or is it just march ?:-\
18 Thursday, 22 March 2012 01:19
Andy pandy
If you boil the sap down for quite a long time and reduce it to a thick(ish) toffee brown colour, its absoulutly great on pancakes and ice cream! Really sweet and tastes like candy floss..............HHHmmmmm!
It can take quite a lot of sap to get a small amount of syrup, but it's weel worth it.
Enjoy.
17 Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:44
billy lord
silver birch sap is brillient when you use it to make a cuppa tea
16 Monday, 28 February 2011 10:09
Lee green
I went out yesterday and I tried taping the silver birch out for myself and it is a very good trait to have out in the wilderness.
15 Monday, 20 December 2010 17:10
Canuck
Hello, that's how maple syrup is made from the maple tree. But you need to boil the sap after you collected it from your bucket.
14 Monday, 31 May 2010 19:40
P. Erkki
When you tap it yourself it you should drink it fresh. On the other hand in Finland and some other countries it is commercially available around the year.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Birch-Sap/131070393570815?ref=mf
13 Thursday, 15 April 2010 11:39
Helena
Hello and thanks for the video and article.This is very helpful. I want to try this out without hurting too much the tree - I have a very strong birch pollen allergy and have read that the birch sap may help removing it. See this http://www.cybis.se/craft/birch/index.php.
12 Tuesday, 13 April 2010 09:41
sandra doherty
very interesting article
11 Friday, 19 March 2010 23:59
Amanda Krug
Great videoering in there is a recipe for cookies or some other use for the
sap?
10 Thursday, 18 March 2010 13:27
D Aston
Is it correct that Birch bark has anti carcinogen properties? If so , what?
9 Tuesday, 09 February 2010 20:56
dan
i was just wondering if this tecnique works with any other types of trees??
8 Saturday, 30 January 2010 19:55
paul neale
will do,when i get a digi camera sorted (im a bit behind with all this technology!) still getting used to a computer! :-)
7 Thursday, 28 January 2010 11:31
Ashley Cawley
Im glad you are enjoying our articles & videos Paul. Feel free to send us in a photo of your knife :)
6 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:14
paul neale
nice little video! its always nice to have these little bits of info in the back of your head just in case but even better when you have a picture of how its done.thank you.(that knife of yours is strangely almost identical to one i made for myself):-)
5 Wednesday, 06 January 2010 21:17
nice straight forward instruction for a wannabe
tree tapper.
thank you
4 Tuesday, 15 December 2009 13:29
I also saw the Ray mears episode and was very interested to discover that the sap can be used to make beer or wine, in actual fact it is not sap, sap is produced by a tree, this is simply water sucked from the ground. I am looking forward to March to tap and makes some spring birch wine.
3 Tuesday, 08 December 2009 09:27
Ryan Horner
Great idea, this is the one way i respect as a naval cadet instructor and this method will be taught to my cadets.

Thank you
2 Saturday, 05 December 2009 11:36
I saw Ray Mears do the same thing, however he used a more efficient superior technique. He ended up with a bucket full of sap but importantly after he was done he bunged up the hole with a piece of branch cut to size. Ray Mears is the undisputed God of bushcraft.
1 Friday, 10 April 2009 19:28
Some time ago I watched a Ray Mears program about tapping the sap of a silver birch tree, and was interested to find out more about it. This does not mean that I intend to go about the countryside with a knife to tap every birch tree in sight but I was particularly interested in knowing about how the tree is cared for after tapping.

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