Guilt Free Birch Tapping – My First Taste of Heavenly Birch Sap – thewildpharma

Guilt Free Birch Tapping – My First Taste of Heavenly Birch Sap – thewildpharma

Fresh, vibrant, nutrient rich, all natural sugary tree water – the very thought of it made me drool with anticipation. I have been itching to try tapping Birch for a good few years now but could never get past the worry of potentially hurting the tree. After all, I live in a land of plentiful food supplies and numerous food shops – tapping Birch trees and risking their demise feels like a total indulgence. Pretty much all the info on tapping Birch involves drilling a hole into the trunk, fitting a hollow spout of some sort, placing a collecting container under it to catch the sap, stopping up the hole somehow when enough sap is collected and then hoping the tree isn’t ‘t too badly drained by the process. Historically, people who relied on Birch sap as a source of valued nutrition would mark each tree tapped with their own code signs so they didn’t tap the same tree year after year.

15 year old White Birches, ripe for tapping

The risk of bleeding a tree to death fills me with horror, especially when its just to satisfy my curiosity and to tick off a checklist of new things to taste or new skills to acquire! How do you know when to stop? How much is too much? Luckily I came across an article somewhere online that showed you can still collect Birch sap but without the need to drill a hole into the trunk and risk seriously threatening the life and health of the tree (gratitude to that author and apologies for not linking to or crediting them, I have lost the original source). And so this Easter weekend, I took my very first sip of this divine nectar from the Gods of Nature.


Select your tree first. I have several Birches on my land – one very old and gnarly and three spritely 15 year old White Birches. I chose one of the more youthful White Birches.

Get all your equipment ready first. Mine includes some strong natural twine, scissors, secateurs (or very sharp blade), a small piece of muslin cloth (any light fabric will do), an elastic band and a small jam jar (or similar) to collect the sap in.

Firstly, I prepared the jam jar by forming a cradle of twine around the jar and making a loop at the top for tying on to a branch. I placed the piece of Muslim over the open mouth of the jar and secured it in place with an elastic band (purely to prevent insects and debris from getting into the sap). I made a small incision in the taught Muslim cloth to slot the end of the selected branch through.

Next I selected a small branch, I chose one around the diameter of my index finger, it needed to be strong enough to bend downwards and take the weight of a jam jar without snapping ot tearing the branch. The first branch I tried snapped off immediately as it was dead, so make sure you select a healthy branch.

Birch branch with collecting jar attached

Then I snipped off the end of the branch with sharp secateurs, carefully bent the branch down towards the trunk, tied off by securing the twine around the snipped branch then tied the other end of the twine around the main trunk to secure it. To my delight, the moment I snipped the branch a clear globule of liquid sap appeared immediately and started dripping.

I then pushed the sap producing end through the slit in the muslin cloth and into the jam jar. I used the loop of twine to tie the jar securely on to the bent branch and stepped back to marvel at the gorgeous liquid accumulating much quicker than I expected into the jar.

Cut Birch branches secured in collecting jar

Within 2 hours I had collected 100ml of Birch sap. Concerned that the weight of the jar might weaken or snap the branch, I removed the jar, released the branch and noticed that even after the branch had sprung back in to its natural more vertical position, it continued to ooze sap but noticeably slower.

A minute or so after setting up the collecting jar!

My partner and myself then savored our first ever taste of the most delicious Spring drink we could ever have imagined. It tastes so delicately sweet with a gentle aromatic quality, a taste and smell beyond description really as I have little to compare it to. We could both feel and taste the freshness, vitality and wild nourishment of this Spring Elixir. Imagine the purest spring water with a hint of sweetness and a gentle aromatic flavor that makes us both smile, eyes closed, long and genuine. Mmmmmmmmmm noises coming out of us, heads gently nodding in approval!

Birch sap collected in 2 hours from modest sized twig

It was for me a kind of initiation, fitting really as the magnificent Birch is a true pioneer tree. She was one of the first to move in on open land and signify the beginnings of a new patch of woodland, one of the first of our UK natives to come into leaf too.

If like me you have always wanted to try Birch sap but don’t feel you have the right equipment, the knowledge or courage, I hope this has given you some confidence to go and give a light pruning to one little Birch branch. Just remember to follow the rules of good foraging and ask permission from any land owner if the tree is not on your land.

Mother Birch keeping a close eye on me ; )

But above all, remember to give your heartfelt gratitude and joy to the majestic Birch, to delight in the feeling of her blood merging with your blood.

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