Every spring we tap the birch trees. Sometime in April, the sun warms the vascular systems of our boreal forest and the sap begins to rise from the roots. It is a sure sign that the season has turned.
In springs past we have tried boiling the sap down for birch syrup. Where maple syrup requires 20-40 gallons of sap for a gallon of syrup, at least 80 gallons of birch sap is required. The sugar content is lower, and it scalds more easily. Besides, I grew up in Maine and nothing will ever beat thick amber maple syrup on my pancakes and oatmeal!
Many folks hereabouts will drink the sap to help prevent (or lessen the severity of) spring allergies once the pollen hits. It works like a charm. Fortunately, our family is free of springtime allergies.
So why do we haul gallon upon gallon of birch sap in from the woods? Why do we fill growlers and pitchers and half our fridge with the stuff?
Because it is delightful. It is one of the best spring tonics I know. Nettle infusions run a very close second. The trees draw up minerals from deep in the glacial deposits that pass for soil in this land. They draw up water and filter it. When drunk, the sap feels revitalizing, rejuvenating. It is like liquid sunshine and fresh breezes and the smell of melting snow and the joy of things growing. In a bottle, a bucket, a glass. And you can drink it. I call that magic.
For the duration of the sap run, we switch out our drinking water with sap. This year, I'm particularly grateful for it. I'm a breastfeeding mom, and my daughter is EBF (that's lactation lingo for exclusively breastfed). It means that my hydration is not only for me (and hydration affects sleep and appetite and metabolism and immune function and #allthethings), but it is also for her. My milk requires lots of water. I try to drink 4 quarts a day of water in addition to whatever other beverages I imbibe. That's a gallon of water a day. And honestly? I'm a little bored of water right now. Enter sap, slightly sweet, wonderfully crisp, like the water ladled from the magic well in the fairy tales of my childhood. Blissful hydration.
Its not just me and other woodswomen who touts the benefits of drinking the spring sap run either! Coconut water is all the craze currently in health conscious fitness circles, because of its superior hydration and the perfect blend of electrolytes and minerals. Did you know that coconut water has actually been used in place of plasma (blood) transfusions in emergency situations? Way cool.
Anyhow, there are actually companies (in Finland and elsewhere) selling bottled birch sap as superior hydration for the health conscious fitness crowd. Google it, you'll see!
Have you ever tapped trees? Do you drink sap? Love syrup? Tel me about it in the comments.