Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Commonly known as black or sweet birch can be tapped for sap and its twigs, bark, leaves and roots can be used in your kitchen to concoct new recipes for your table as well as your bar.
One of my favorite winter time activities is to take a walk through the woods and sharpen my tree identification skills. I study the characteristics of the bark, the twigs, leaf scars, buds and the general shape of the entire tree. How do the branches and trunk grow to form the crown of the tree.
The black birch was one of the first trees that I became comfortable identifying in the woods on and around Mount Beacon, and
over time have become intimate with. It is rather easy to identify even in the winter months without its foliage. The distinct features of its bark easily separate it from the other surrounding tree species in the forest.
Here is a general summary about Betula lenta
Black Birch/Sweet Birch
To tap trees you will first need to collect the following pieces of equipment:
-spiles. These are the tapered spouts that are hammered into the holes drilled in the trees where the sap will come from.
-buckets or bags to collect the sap
-drill and ½" paddle bit
-hammer to drive the spiles into the holes drilled into trees.
To tap the tree, drill a hole approx 3 feet from the ground about 2" deep into the sapwood at a 45°angle. Next, clear out any sawdust that is still in the hole. I just blow air into the hole to blow out the sawdust. Next, hammer your spile into the hole and hang your bags or buckets. That is it. The sap will be dripping steadily into your receptacles.
The sap can then be boiled down to a syrup. Each species of tree as well as each individual tree s within those species will have different flavor profiles based on the mineral contents in the sap from the soil the tree grows in.
Birch (Betula lenta)- Sap runs mid March to mid April. Sap to syrup ratio is 110gal Sap to 1gal syrup.
Black or sweet birch trees can be fairly easily identified by their bark during the winter when there are no leaves to help. Black birch bark on a mature tree will be brownish gray with scaly irregular plates forming vertically lined horizontally with the grown out
Flavor profile. Slightly sweet while savory and peppery. Bark, roots and twigs have a wintergreen flavor and nose.
Fresh tapped Black Birch syrup contains many vitamins and minerals such as-Fructose, Glucose, small amounts of sucrose, fruit acid, calcium amino acids, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, Magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, iron, malic acid, phosphoric acid, succinic acid, citric acid, and high in antioxidants.
Birch sap can either be drank as a fortified tonic, fermented and infused to make Kvass, fermented into kombucha, shrubs, beers and gruits
Make birch sap ice cubes for your favorite rocks cocktails. Flavor sodas and switchels.