Birch tree sap
Just as syrup can be tapped from the maple tree, a sweet syrup can also be obtained from birch trees. Queenstown block owner Denise Greer has tapped her trees and given it a go.
“You have to do it before the buds burst; after that it turns sour,” says Denise.
Bear in mind that what you get after tapping needs to be processed almost immediately.
“The sap is like water and pretty tasteless until you boil it. Then, after hours and hours, you finally get a sweet syrup.”
Denise says she boiled the liquid for at least eight hours, but even then she thinks it may have needed longer.
“Even after boiling that long it still wasn’t syrupy, but had thickened a bit and reduced from around 1 litre down to only maybe 300ml.”
Birch sap is high in fructose, while maple is higher in sucrose. Sucrose is sweeter tasting, which is why maple syrup is more sugary.
The syrup from birch trees may not be as sweet, but it still makes a good substitute for maple syrup. It’s also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is credited with helping to soothe a range of ailments, including colds, flu, headaches, high cholesterol, skin conditions and rheumatism.
Birch sap flows from the roots to the buds in early spring, so tapping is done in early spring before the leaves appear.
Birch trees provide a watery, tasteless sap... until you boil it.