While harvesting Acacia, or gum Arabic, is a simple process, growing the Acacia trees here in the U.S. has proven to be a challenge. However, if you live in the Southwest, where the temperatures are similar to sub-tropical Africa, then it is possible that you have one or more Acacia trees. The gum, or sap, of the Acacia is used in everything from ice cream to a wide range of pharmaceuticals, and is considered quite valuable. Harvesting this gum, at the proper time of the year, is exceedingly easy.
Stop watering your Acacia tree in September. Placing the tree under slight drought stress actually increases the flow of the gum later, during the harvest.
Watch for natural flows of gum to begin in November. These are usually small, with sap seeping out of broken branches or other injuries to the tree. Note the color--some trees produce a clear or white gum and others produce a red gum.
Use your hatchet to make small cuts in the trunk of the tree and peel away strips of bark approximately 2 inches wide and 2 to 3 feet long in early December. Three such strips can be removed from around the trunk of each tree.
Wait three weeks for the sap, or gum, to ooze from the stripped spots on the trunk. The gum should ooze out and harden over approximately three weeks.
Collect the gum after it has hardened. The gum should pry away from the trunk of the tree easily. Some of the gum may have fallen to the ground. Collect all of it and place it in a cloth sack, where air can circulate around it.
Clean as much dirt and debris off of the gum as you can, using paper towels and tweezers. Your gum Arabic is now ready. Dissolved in water, the gum is used to treat a wide range of ailments, everything from coughs to urinary tract infections.