Black birch trees produce sweet, tasty sap that contains calcium, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. The sap has been used for centuries for food, drink and medicinal purposes. Because birch sap has a higher water content than maple sap, it requires more sap and longer cooking to produce birch syrup. However, many people feel it is worth the time and effort because black birch syrup is thicker and richer than maple syrup. Black birch trees should be tapped in early spring.
Choose a black birch tree that is at least 10 inches in diameter. Plan to tap the tree in early spring before its first leaves bud. Waiting until after the buds form will result in unsavory, cloudy syrup. Plan to do your tapping in the afternoon.
Drill a hole 2 to 4 feet from the ground on the sunniest side of the tree. Make sure your drill bit matches the spout specifications. Drill the hole in an upward angle to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Avoid drilling in a spot that has been previously drilled.
Remove any wood shavings that remain in the hole.
Examine the hole to determine if the wood is pale, tan and moist. If not, do not tap the tree. Gray, dark brown or dry wood is a sign that the tree is decaying or unhealthy.
Place the spout into the hole. Position it so the hook hangs beneath the spout.
Tap on the spout with a rubber mallet to stabilize it in the hole.
Place the collection bucket on the hook that is attached to the spout. Cover the bucket and spout with plastic to protect the contents from debris and insects.
Use the same spout and tap the tree for up to one week. If you find that no sap flows, it generally means that it is too early in the season. Try again in one week.
Remove the tap from the tree when sap collection is complete. The tree will heal itself.