Friday, March 19, 2010

The tapping of the trees

It has begun! Last Saturday morning I took my little helper along and began tapping boxelder trees at the park. It didn't go as smoothly this time as last, primarily because my hand drill refused to cooperate with me. The drill bit kept slipping, and for the life of me I couldn't get it tight enough. So we ended up only tapping fourteen trees, which is about half of what I had hoped for.

The sap was running slow, though, so I figured I could come back and do a few more by the end of the week. Wrong! Rains and wind kept me away Sunday and Monday, and then I had to go out of town Tuesday through Thursday. Of course those were the three warmest and driest days of the week. And today? Again, cold and windy and rainy. Tomorrow's forecast? The same. Maybe Monday will be better. I am definitely a fair-weather syruper.

I'll be watching the trees carefully this season, to see when the leaf buds open. Last year I read that sap collected after the buds open gives the syrup a bitter flavor, but I had a hard time believing it. Half way through my sap collection last year I noticed the buds opening. But the sap was still flowing strong, so I kept collecting. The syrup made from my first boiling, which was before the buds opened, is very sweet and yummy. The second boiling was done with later sap, and that syrup has a definite bitter tang to it. A flavor that is bitter and sweet, all at the same time.

I checked the buckets this morning and each tree has given about a gallon so far. It seems to have picked up a bit in the last day or two. Maybe by the end of next week I'll have enough for a boil.


Maple Lawn Farm said...

I wish I had a helper like that! ;-)

I find tapping trees absolutely fascinating. That is something I have never done.

While living in Alaska, there were some folks that arrived from the Ukrain. They would tap the birch trees and make a sweet drink from the sap. I remember thinking it was good but I am not sure how they made it.

Leigh said...

I'm glad to see this. Not a lot of folks know that more trees than sugar maple can be tapped. Maybe I need to start looking around to see what our area has to offer!

Mama Pea said...

I guess you learn something every day! I had no idea you could get sap/syrup from boxelder trees. When my husband was teaching on the Indian Reservation he took the kids out to tap birch trees. I remember the syrup as being good but much milder than maple syrup. How do you compare the syrup from the boxelders to that from maple trees?

Jo said...

The boxelder syrup is just as sweet, but doesn't have the same maple flavor. The flavor is more similar to marshmallows, almost buttery.

I've never had birch syrup. I've heard about it, though. Not a lot of birch trees around here. I think you might be able to buy it online somewhere, though.

Erin said...

I have never tried it, but it sounds good, and what a great lesson for your kids!

Thistledog said...

Oh, this is great stuff! I'm with Mama Pea, I had no idea you could tap sap flows from trees other than sugar maple and birch - how cool is that!

Your little helper just rocks. What a guy.

Jo said...

Hi Erin! Yes, the kids like doing it. We went back last week to tap a few more trees and everybody wanted a turn doing everything.

Hello Thistledog -- It is great! Everybody around here thinks boxelder is a junk tree (can't build anything with it, can't burn it, draws bugs, etc.) but I love them. So do woodpeckers!