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.
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.