Birch sap, or birch water as it's sometimes called, is extracted at the end of winter, usually mid March in the UK. It's a clear, slightly sweet liquid thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties (Wikipedia). At the end of a dreary winter what better way to drink in some extra nourishment. You can drink it as soon as it's extracted from the tree. One downside, or bonus (depending on your perspective), is that the sap has a very short shelf life, 2-3 days. To preserve it: ferment it! For stage by stage 'how to' instructions on making birch sap wine visit our recipe by clicking here.
The most important consideration when embarking (did you see that tree pun?) on sap extraction is how not to damage the tree. Follow a few simple rules and your (or your neighbour's) lovely silver birch will survive this ordeal unscathed:
- Extract at the correct time of year - tap the tree in early March, when the buds are starting to grow, and the sap should flow freely. If it doesn't then wait another week or so and try again.
- Select a well established tree, not a youngster, at least 12 inches in diameter.
- Do not take more than a few litres from each tree.
- Bung the hole to prevent more sap draining out of the tee and to protect it from infection.
Watch this great video guide by Andrew Price on extracting sap correctly.
Here's a summary of the method:
- Drill 3-4cm into tree at an upward angle to allow sap to flow out
- Insert one end of piping into the tree and the other end into a demi-john
- Make a bung the same size as the drilled hole to insert after extracting sap