Silver Birch Sap


IMG_3284Last year I heard the sap rising in Silver Birch for the first time. It was amazing. This year I decided to have a go at tapping one for the sap that is a spring tonic. Mrs Grieve, in A Modern Herbal, describes the vernal sap as being diuretic (promoting urine production). Here is a description of what I did, though not in a hugely successful way.

I found an older tree in the woodland surrounding our Medicine Garden (I checked in with the trees which one to use and with that one that it was ok to drill a hole and felt that it was so I went ahead). I had hoped to be able to use a hand drill as it would be quieter and more sensitive to the situation but I could not find one as they all seem to be electric now. So I used a drill bit suitable for wood and drilled in about 1cm in to the bark, slightly at an upward angle.

The sap started to seep out and I held a cup up to catch the sap. This was the tricky part as it was hard to get it flush to the bark, and even when I found a spot to catch it after a few minutes it found a way to seep under the cup and down the trunk. The bark was also very knobbly and so it was difficult to find a suitable place to put the cup. It was lovely to watch the way that it flowed down the bark, almost like a waterfall, or down a spiraling column that energises water!

IMG_3290I collected a few teaspoons and tasted it and I also tasted it straight from the tree. It was slightly sweet and had a taste of pine. Really wonderful to be able to see and taste what I could hear gurgling under the bark.

IMG_3295Despite the wonder of discovery there was also a feeling of being uncomfortable taking the sap from the tree, almost like I was taking its blood from it. With the difficulty of trying to collect the sap and not wanting to waste it I stopped after a short while and found a stick to close the hole with. I used a fallen branch from the tree and cut a piece the same diameter as the hole and pushed it in. It took some force so I felt that the hole was well sealed. However the sap still dripped out, even after a couple of hours. This made me feel bad as I did not want the plant to be losing all of this important liquid. I chewed some yarrow and placed around the hole, hoping it may stop sap as it stops bleeding in humans. Nothing happened immediately but after a week the yarrow poultice and surrounding area was dry.


Since listening to Mark Williams, a forager on Outdoors, Radio Scotland, I learnt that a lot of people now leave the hole to heal itself naturally and do not go back to that tree for several years. Also the sap is 98% water and 2% simple sugars and minerals etc. It can be reduced to make a syrup or used in wine making – I had some wine last year made from Birch sap and it felt quite psychotropic! Not sure if others have found this.

So that is my experience of tapping a birch for sap. If I was to do it again I would use a Spile to insert into the hole to make collection of sap easier. It is too late probably to collect sap now, but I hope this makes you keen to have a go next year!

be well

simonemelanie, 2016










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