Tapping Birch Trees

Its that time of the year when winter is trying to release its grip on Northern Europe, with the odd slip of a frost and recently a lot of rain coming of the land and flooding the river valleys.  It is also the time when nature starts to wake from its winters sleep and life starts to flow through the veins of animals and plants.

I love this time of the year as their is a bit of warmth in the air and everything is waking up.  Willow and Birch are two of the earliests trees to wake up and one of my pointers that the season is changing is when it’s time to tap the Birch trees for their sap.

Birch sap is collected only at the break of winter and spring when the sap moves intensively. Birch sap collection is done by drilling a hole into its trunk and leading the sap into a container via some conduit: a tube or simply a thin twig: the sap will flow along it because of the surface tension.

Birch sap has to be collected in early spring before any green leaves have appeared, as in late spring it becomes bitter. The collection period is only about a month per year. Tapping a tree does not harm the health of the tree.

If the tap hole is not well plugged with a round tight fitting dowel there is a possibility that the sap continues to flow causing not only a loss of nutriment but also a risk of infection and fungal attack.

How to tap a Birch Tree

Tapping a birch tree

You don’t need much equipment for this all you need is a small knife, auger, small stick to act as a spile and a container to catch the sap in.

I personally don’t use an auger I use a small whittling knife which is perfect depth and diameter of hole.



Start drilling you hole, look at the colour of the bark if it’s dark and looks rotten then plug the hole and find another tree.

Drill at about a 30 degree angle no deeper than about 3cm, as you start you start drilling you will see the sap start to flow, clean the hole out to remove as much sawdust as you can as this will only start to flow with sap into your collecting container.

Your spike should be carved so it fits the hole snugly and that there’s a good nook carved to hold your catching container.  If you are looking at collecting a large amount then either attach it to the tree or rest it on the ground.

Once you’ve cleared the hole push in the spile and hang your collecting container on the spile.  Start collecting the sap and sit back and wait.

try reducing the liquid down to make a syrup it will probably be about 60:1 or heat it up and brew a coffee with it.


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