How to Tap Birch Trees for Sap

Overview

Compared to maple syrup, birch syrup is richer and more complex, and syrup made from golden birch or black birch trees has a slightly wintergreen taste. Birch trees produce less sap than sugar maples, and birch sap has a higher water content, so you'll need to cook it down more to make syrup or sugar. However, tapping birch trees for sap can be an interesting activity for homesteaders or other people trying to live off the land, and you'll be rewarded with a sweet, unique syrup.

Step 1

Drill a hole in the sunniest side of the birch tree about two inches deep and 3/8 of an inch in diameter. The hole should slope upward slightly so that when the spike is inserted it will point towards the ground.

Step 2

Remove all wood shavings from the hole. The wood inside should be pale tan and moist. If the inside of the birch tree is dry, rotten, gray or dark brown, it should not be tapped.

Step 3

Insert a tree spike into the hole. A tree spike is essentially a metal tube with a spout on one end and a hook from which you can hang a bucket. Position the tree spike so that the spout faces out and the hook hangs underneath.

Step 4

Gently hammer the tree spike into the hole with a rubber mallet.

Step 5

Attach a container to the hook on the spike to collect the sap. You can use specially designed sugaring pails with lids, a five gallon bucket, or even old milk jugs or soda bottles. Try to use a container with a lid or narrow mouth to keep out bugs, leaves and other detritus.

Step 6

Remove all tree spikes when you are done collecting birch sap, before the trees leaf out. You do not need to clean or otherwise treat the hole; the tree will heal over itself.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • Spikes
  • Mallet
  • Sugaring pails or other containers

References

  • The Heart of New England: Tapping Birch Trees
  • Birch Boy: Alaskan Birch Syrup
  • David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati Clermont College: Making Maple Syrup
Keywords: birch syrup, tapping birch trees, birch sap, homesteading, make syrup

About this Author

Sonya Welter worked in the natural foods industry for more than seven years before becoming a full-time freelancer in 2010. She has been published in "Mother Earth News," "Legacy" magazine and in several local publications in Duluth, Minn., including "Zenith City News," for which she writes a regular outdoors column. She graduated cum laude in 2002 from Northland College, an environmental liberal arts college.