Treasures of the garden – when, how and why to collect birch sap?

Birch sap – natural, useful, local: when, how to collect and how to harvest

Birch sap is, in fact, pure water with trace elements, which flows out of the damaged sections of the trunks and branches of the birch under the influence of root pressure.

So technically birch sap is not sap at all. After all, you don’t crush the bark of a tree to get it :) and you don’t boil birch leaves and coconuts in the same pot.

How do you get birch sap?

In spring, after the winter dormancy, the tree begins to actively restore all processes: it is necessary to quickly grow new leaves, inflorescences and fruits. For this purpose, we use nutrients accumulated in the heartwood of the tree, which, under the action of root pressure, rise together with water (from the soil) into the “tree’s plumbing system” (along the xylem). Here we take some of this water from the tree with the nutrients dissolved in it. If we take some, it is almost imperceptible for the birch.

What, besides water, does birch sap contain?

The first thing to understand is that birch sap is VERY different, and the amount of nutrients it contains varies greatly from tree to tree.

  • Glucose and fructose range from 0.2% to 2.25%, sucrose even less.
  • Calcium, magnesium, and potassium are found in fairly high concentrations.
  • Manganese – 200 g of juice contains a full daily dose.
  • The juice contains about 17 amino acids, but all of them in extremely low concentrations.
  • Natural phenol betuloside, triterpene betulin and triterpenoid betulinic acid.
  • Vitamin C and B vitamins are present in low concentrations.
  • The caloric value of the birch sap is only 4,6 kcal per 100 g.

When is birch juice harvested in the Moscow region and central Russia?

Collection of sap begins in spring with the first thaw and continues until the buds open. Usually it’s the end of March to mid-to-late April, a period when the average daily air temperature is about +5 degrees.

Where is the best place to collect birch sap?

Certainly not in the city and not in the street. The best place, of course, is in the woods, but even here not everything can be taken for granted. Most birch sap comes from birches growing in lowland swamps. But the sap from birch trees growing on hillsides is considered healthier, with more nutrients in it.

One more thing! Sap can be collected only from trees intended for cutting. Poachers have to pay for illegal extraction. However, it is unlikely that someone will fine you for a few liters of sap collected with the most respectful attitude to the tree.

A barbaric way of getting birch sap

How much birch sap can be collected from one birch tree?

Usually 3-4 liters of sap is gathered from an average birch, and from large specimens up to 6-7 liters. Collecting more is dangerous for the tree.

To avoid the death of trees it is not recommended to take sap from young trees, choose birches with a trunk diameter of at least 20 cm, and preferably MORE than 30 cm!

And every year you need to change trees to collect sap. Grow a new birch tree every year to collect sap. After 2-3 years, you can go back to the old one. And so on in a circle, especially if you collect sap from summer birches. Don’t torture them, give them time to recover.

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How is birch sap extracted?

Usually the sap is obtained by cutting or notching the bark of the tree. An aluminum or plastic channel is inserted into the slit, through which the sap flows into a hanging container.

Sometimes sap is obtained by cutting off small branches and attaching a plastic bag to them.

Obtaining birch sap using a pipette

Setting up a dropper is the most refined way to get birch sap for the tree itself.

To do this, drill a hole 2 to 5 cm deep with a drill and insert the pipette tip into it. Place the opposite tip in a bottle or bag without a medical needle.

Collecting sap in a bag

What is the best way to collect birch sap?

Traditionally, birch sap is collected in a glass or plastic bottle. But it’s much more hygienic if you hang a sterile medical bag or food liquid storage bag instead of a bottle (Z of any food liquid).

Why are bags better than bottles? There are four reasons.

  1. They don’t allow air or foreign bodies to get in from the outside;
  2. Do not alter or impair the smell or taste of the contents,
  3. they are airtight
  4. And most importantly, they are sterile.

What to do after getting birch sap from a tree?

Damage to the bark after receiving the sap should be sealed: caulked with horticultural underbark or rannet.

In fact, it is very important to seal the hole. There was a study in the U.S., in Alaska, that showed that one in two holes after sap was squeezed had pathogenic bacteria in it. So it’s not so scary that you’re taking the sap, it’s scary that you’re bringing disease to the tree. For this reason, it is best to use medical devices – droppers – to extract the sap. By the way, there are special droppers for extracting tree sap, but it is quite difficult for the average person to buy them. Such systems are sold to large collectors of birch and maple sap. Yes, yes, maple sap, from which maple syrup is derived, is actually the same thing, and it is extracted in exactly the same way. Only in this case you have to boil it for a very long time to get the syrup.

For the tree, this is the gentlest way to collect birch sap.

What to do with the collected sap?

1. Drink it immediately after taking it off. Usually they are harvested for this very purpose. The collected sap is stored in the refrigerator for no more than 2 days.

2. Freeze for later use.

3. Preserved. In this case, according to many experts, all the useful properties of birch sap are lost. Only sweetened water remains.

Recipe for making birch sap from a jar

For a three-liter glass of juice you need 0.75 sugar and half a teaspoon of citric acid.

Sterilize the three-liter glass.

If you collected in sterile bags, the juice can simply pour into a pan, if in glasses or bottles, the juice must first be strained. Add sugar and citric acid to the juice, bring to a boil, remove the foam. Strain the juice and bring to a boil again.

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Pour the boiling juice into the prepared glass and close it for storage with a sterile lid.

Turn the glass on its head and let it cool. Store the juice in a dark and cool place.

No negative effects of drinking birch sap have been reported. However, people who are allergic to birch, it is better to do without its use.

Of course, birch sap is traditionally considered very useful in folk medicine. However, there is no proof of its super usefulness. For people who are used to drink bright concentrated juices and Coca-Cola, it will be just water with a wonderful name. For the Soviet generation it will be a drink of childhood and nostalgia.

In the materials of the portal Restaurateur chefs Proofi give even more useful tips for using birch sap: how to collect birch sap and what to do with it

How and when to collect birch sap: Timing of the collection this year 2022 – possibilities

Birch sap is a favorite drink, familiar to many since childhood. You’ve probably tasted it more than once and remember its sweet, pleasant taste with a slight woody aroma. There won’t be much time to harvest birch in 2022, so you have time to stock up on sap for future consumption. If you do not know how and when to collect nectar from the tree, I will share the approximate time of collection and the easiest ways.

Gathering birch sap

People have been collecting sap since the days of Russia. They loved it for its amazing sweetness and pleasant smell, so they poured it instead of fruit drink and kvass and just drank it. People knew that the drink not only had a unique taste, but also had tremendous benefits for the body. The water was given to children to strengthen immunity, was given to the sick and they got better. Especially useful birch for diseases of the lungs, joints and gastrointestinal tract. Women considered this drink the elixir of youth: after regular use, hair grew well and the skin shone with health.

When should you collect birch sap in 2022?

It is necessary to go to the forest when spring arrives. This is usually after the middle of March, the 2nd of the first spring month. The risk of frost has already passed. After hibernation, when the air temperature warms above zero, the movement in the tribes and branches becomes more intense, which means that it is time to stock up on natural nectar.

Gathering birch sap

In order not to get the timing of the collection wrong, pay attention to the following:

  • Air temperature. It should be positive, about 3-5 degrees;
  • The absence of snow. All snow drifts in the forest should melt, and the moisture should enter the ground;
  • The appearance of swollen buds on the branches.

To definitively make sure that you have chosen the right time, cut a thin branch from a birch tree and look at the section boundary. If a clear liquid exudes from it, you can start collecting.

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Previously, birch sap was collected after early spring day and night, i.e. after 20-22. March.

Timing of the birch sap collection this year by region of Russia

The timing of the collection in the regions varies greatly. This is due to the different climate, because in some regions spring comes 2 weeks earlier, in others it is just as late. In southern Russia, for example, it gets warmer as early as the end of February, and in winter there may not be any snow at all. Residents of the Krasnodar region and Crimea can go to the woods from early March and collect sap until April.

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Those who live in the central part in Voronezh, Moscow, Omsk, and other major cities can fish only from the end of March after the 20th. Previous trips are pointless, they only unnecessarily damage the tree. It’s allowed to harvest birch till the 20th of April while the leaves on the birch haven’t opened yet.

For residents of Novosibirsk and northern regions the right time for harvesting is not earlier than mid-April. At the end of March there is still snow in the woods and the nature hasn’t woken up yet. The temperature is still below zero, but changes to positive as April arrives. In the forests of Siberia and the Far East it is possible to fish from April 15 to May 15.

Keep in mind that the above are approximate dates, which can vary from year to year. Winters can be unusually warm or, conversely, cold, so first focus on the outward signs that nature itself is presenting. Then correctly determine the data and collect the maximum sap of the tree.

How to properly collect birch sap without harming the wood

If you choose the time to collect woodcock, do not rush into the woods and first study the following recommendations. Not every tree is suitable for collecting, and by ignorance you can only harm the plant and doom it to death.

Picking sap from a birch tree

The following tips will help you avoid mistakes:

  • First, choose a mature tree. It is easy to distinguish from others by its diameter: it should be at least 20 cm. Small trees look very beautiful, but it is still too early to collect sap from them, because in the period of development and formation the movement of fluid is very intense, and the plant itself needs sap;
  • To collect the sap, you need to make a hole in the bark. For this purpose, usually use a knife, drill, screwdriver and screwdriver. But it is strictly forbidden to work with an axe senselessly, because after notching the tree will die. The depth of the hole itself is also important. The fluid is between the bark and the trunk itself. It is enough to drill a hole 1-1.5 cm deep, and the liquid begins to flow into the recipient. Very deep holes left in the trunk cause great damage to the birch, and it takes a lot of effort to recover.
  • The number of holes in the bark depends on the age and size of the tree. If the trunk is small, up to 25-30 cm, there should be no more than 1-2 holes. With larger birches, you can collect 3-4 in different places. Do not try to collect all the sap from the tree. The norm is small: the birch gives an average of 1 liter every day, and this is normal. Leave the liquid in the tree, it is necessary to preserve your life. You can collect 10 liters of nectar in an entire season, regardless of their size.
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And lastly: Once you are done and have filled the containers with sap, don’t leave the tree to its fate and take care of it. Cover the hole with dense material. If this is not done, an infection will quickly enter the open wound, begin the process of oozing and the birch will die. You can cover the hole with plasticine, placemats, or garden varnish. If you forgot to take flat material into the woods, cover the hole with grass or moss, but do not leave it open.

Possibilities for collecting birch sap

Back home, decide ahead of time how much sap you need and for what purpose. If you want to just enjoy it and treat your relatives with it, a container of 2-3 liters is enough. If you want to preserve the natural product, prepare a capacious container. Birch sap cannot be stored for a long time, so you should process or drink it in the first 2-3 days after collecting it. Then it begins to sour and becomes unfit for consumption.

The most suitable time for collecting juice is morning and afternoon. Nature awakens with the first rays of the sun, and active sap starts to flow in the trunk and branches of the birch. Then, by evening, it slows down noticeably, and this can be seen in the decrease in volume. So if you do not want to spend much time in the woods, go there in the morning, at 10-11 o’clock.

There are many ways to collect nature’s nectar. Most of them have come down to us from our ancestors. They simply made a 1 cm deep hole in the bark at about 50 cm from the ground, and presented birch bark. It’s not necessary to have special skills or to be an experienced forester; everybody can gather birch bark.

On the branch

To avoid making holes in the tree and traumatizing it unnecessarily, choose the thickest and prettiest branch at the bottom. Cut it off with a knife, leaving about 5-6 mm. The liquid pours out of the interface, so you will quickly have to replace the cup or bottle with a crimped neck. Make a slingshot and secure the collection in it, then you won’t have to hold it in your hands.

Insects, especially ants, love a sweet drink. If you don’t want them in the cup, don’t leave the process unattended.

With a straw.

Picking sap from a pipe

Straws, plastic straws, and drip tubes are very handy for collecting your drink, so grab them in the woods. Make a hole in the birch bark that matches the diameter of the straw and insert it so it won’t fall out. Put the other end of the tube into a plastic bottle with a narrow neck. To prevent insects from getting inside, screw the neck with the cap and cut a narrow hole under the tube. This method is recognized as one of the easiest and fastest. You will not lose a single drop of nectar. It does, however, take a long time, as the diameter of the tubes is small.

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In the old days, sap was collected very simply: made cuttings in the bark at an angle. They were up to 10 cm long and up to 1 cm deep. Then a groove was made of wood to make an outlet for the sap. The liquid quickly flowed from the bark into the container. As a chute fit any device. The main thing is that it should not be poisonous and interact with the nectar. For large trees with a thick trunk, the number of nozzles can be increased. This method will help to collect birch sap very quickly.

herb flagellum.

Another interesting and less ancient method is to make a hole in the bark and insert a herbal flagellum into it. The sap soaks into the tourniquet and drips into the collector from the other edge. If you went to the woods and there were no tourniquets or tubes nearby, weave a long braid of grass leaves and then insert it into the hole made by the dane. On the other side, replace the container with a stack.

By hand

You will need only a sharp knife to implement this method. Identify the south side of the tree, then create a neat section in the shape of a Latin “V”. Carefully lift the bark, but don’t tear it off, bend it like a hook. Then make shallow incisions and wait for the liquid to appear. Put under it a convenient container: it can be a glass if you want to quench your thirst, or pour the drink into a thick plastic bag with a lock. When you’ve gathered the desired amount, return the birch bark to its place.

Picking sap by hand

As soon as you make a hole in the birch, the tree gives up all its cure, so the amount of birch decreases every hour.

After collecting the sap, you will have to drink it in the next few days, it is not suitable for long-term storage. Someone freezes it to preserve the healing properties and taste, but it is better to can. At home, canning birch juice is not so difficult. To do this, bring the liquid to a boil, add sugar, dried fruits and citric acid (they are preservatives) to taste and pour into sterilized glasses. After cooling, store the drink in a cool place. All the rich composition is fully preserved, which means that the juice will be as useful as at the time of collection.

If you feel the fresh juice has an unpleasant aftertaste or a certain flavor, you can’t drink it, it has gone bad. This starts with improper storage (room temperature, daylight) and develops very quickly. However, do not rush to pour out the drink: it is useful for making homemade kvass, wine or porridge. Alcoholic products based on birch sap turns out excellent. So add the gifts of nature in season and drink to your health all year round.

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