In this article you will find 10 awesome ways my tribe and I used the sap from maple and birch trees this spring. As an unschooling mom I take every opportunity to get in nature, get curious and have fun with my son. This year we have the opportunity to build a permaculture garden and forage food on 300 acres along the Canadian Shield – because we have an internet connection, we also have the opportunity to share our journey with you.
When I was a kid growing up on Georgian Bay, we knew when the sides of our dirt roads became lined with maple syrup buckets it was time for Papa Joes. I have been thinking about my Papa Joe a lot since we got to this property. He was something to watch – he smiled, included us kids, was outside on the farm every morning at the same time, went to church every Sunday one day a year he invited the community to his sugar bush where he would fry up potatoes in maple syrup, pour it on snow to make taffy and I am sure spiked some drinks for the grown ups too, because it does make a tasty whisky infusion.
I remember walking out there with him on nice days, riding in the bucket of the tractor on the fun days and pooping in the cold snow on the desperate days. The moment I hopped out of the car onto the land were homestead on now, I smelled the maple and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be with my son. Below you will find our 10 super awesome ways we used maple and birch sap (water) this spring.
10 Awesome Ways to Use Tree Sap
- Digestive Aid: Tree sap is a good source of oligosaccharides and can be used as a good carbon source for the good bacteria like lactobacilli, that help digest our food and strengthen our digestive system.
- Hyper Hydration: Tree sap contains electrolytes, similar to coconut water. Maple water is believed to be extremely hydrating for the body and contains electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium and calcium.
- Balancing Blood Sugar: Tree sap contains helps control blood sugar and is especially helpful for people with type-2 diabetes and obesity-related inflammation. In its natural water form tree sap has a low-calorie count of only 45cal to a 500mL serving and is a healthy alternative sugary beverage like juice or sports drinks. If you boil the sap down to a syrup you can use it as a sugar substitute in most anything.
- Eliminate Inflammation: Tree sap contains up to 24 different antioxidants. The antioxidants, in the form of phenolic compounds in maple water, are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or heart disease.
- Skin Care: Tree sap is hydrating and full of antioxidants and vitamin C. Replacing water with birch sap in your skin care product can increase the production of skin cells, stimulate the production of collagen, keep your skin strong, elastic, protected and hydrated. If your boiling sap down to make a syrup you can give yourself a steam facial at the same time.
- Hair Care: Tree sap is a natural shampoo, it aids collagen production and iron absorption, the vitamin C may also strengthen your hair. Folk remedies use birch water to treat hair loss, but further studies are necessary.
- Frozen Treats: Nothing like a yummy smoothie, smoothie bowl and frozen sapcicles to bring in the spring season. You can also preserve sap in your freezer for a later date.
- Immune Boosting Tea: Infuse sap with spices (ginger & cinnamon) or berries and allow it to simmer on low – med heat for up to 24h drinking throughout the day. If there is some left over you can strain it and refrigerate it but its not something that happens often for us.
- Detox / Cleanse: Tree sap is associated with detoxing the kidneys and liver and flushing toxins from the body. Birch trees absorb more than 50 percent of particle dust from passing traffic, linked to pollution and respiratory problems, virtually clearing toxins from the air. How well it clears toxins from the human body is anyone’s guess. Though the chemicals in birch act as a diuretic.
- Nutritional Alcoholic Beverages: So, this we haven’t done but I know some of my friends are interested in so here it goes. Tree sap contains 17 amino acids, as well as minerals, enzymes, proteins, antioxidants, sugar (xylitol, fructose and glucose) and vitamins (C and B). By fermenting this nutritional sap, you can create beer, wine or mead and you need.
What you need to know is…
The season for the most sap running in the tree varies with the different species during the sugaring season, beginning with maple trees, followed by box elder, walnut trees, birch, alders, sycamore and butternut.
You can use the same tools for tapping trees. Only 1 tap is placed on healthy trees 8 -14 inches in diameter or bigger. Look for the trees with the largest crowns. These will have the most sap. Put your tap hole 4 feet up from the base of the tree.
Drill in 1 inch to 1 ½ inches (2 to 4 cm), below the bark into the wood – look for a bit of moisture. Don’t drill into the heart wood or you may damage the tree.
A mature tree will give 1 gallon of sap per day during the tapping season. You can expect about a quart of syrup from each mature tree that you tap over the season. Gather your sap every day during the season. Use the sap as you collect it because it will begin to ferment if left at room temperature.
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