Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sugaring Birches: Part 1

This week I borrowed some buckets and an old hand drill from our friend, Ken, and set out to tap some birches. I tapped Betula lenta (Black Birch), but Peterson's says that all the birches have edible sap. Our friend, Tifin, said that she did not care for birch syrup when she tried it in Alaska where there is a dearth of maple trees. Apparently the wintergreen flavor of the twigs does not transfer to the syrup. My co-worker, Matt, and I speculated that the molecules that give the twigs that fresh flavor might be changed at high temperatures. Undeterred, I set out to experiment and learn what I could.

At first I thought that only two taps would not be enough, but Abe said that over the course of the season one can expect to get about one quart of maple syrup from each tap. That's 10 gallons of sap from each tap! Birch sap supposedly flows even more prodigiously. After thinking about it that way, two taps seemed just fine.

I found two goodly sized trees and tapped away only to find that the next day there was . . . nothing. The buckets were dry.

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