Monday, February 8, 2016

Non-Maple Syrups on Tap

It's tree-tapping season!  Since we're huge pancake lovers, we've been keen on tapping trees for quite a while.  Two potential problems, though, are that we live in suburban Denver (is there enough of a cold period to generate a significant sap flow?), and we've got exactly one maple tree in our yard, which isn't big enough to tap. (It's not even an actual sugar maple--it's a silver maple!)

We do, however, have several non-maple trees that are big enough.  And since the process is pretty much the same, we figured we'd tap what we've got and see what we get!  Several places note anecdotally (e.g., here) that other tree species can be tapped (with tempered expectations because the sugar content and/or sap volume is lower than for sugar maples), and some even talk about tapping coniferous trees!  But with few exceptions (mostly for other types of maples, birches, or walnuts), these sources don't give much in the way of what to expect in terms of yields or flavor.  Looks like a data gap waiting to be filled!  We ordered up a set of 10 taps from the internets, scored some free buckets from the local grocery store bakery, and set 'em up yesterday.

We went around the yard and measured tree circumferences at about chest height.  The diameter is the circumference divided by pi (d = c/π); and a general recommendation is to tap trees no smaller than 10 inches in diameter.  Looks like we've got two each of box elders, Bradford pears, Siberian elms, and Colorado blue spruces, along with a Lombardy poplar and an invasive Tree of Heaven that qualify.  We'll probably pass on the spruces this year.  The tapping process is not supposed to hurt the tree or affect its longevity, but the elms and the Tree of Heaven would surprise us if they lasted beyond this year anyway.

The buckets are 3.5 gallons and used to have "donut glaze" in them.  We washed them out in the bath tub, although if we had thought ahead a little, washing them outside with the hose last summer would have been a lot easier.

The taps came with two-foot sections of tubing attached, the ends of which we warmed up with hot water to make them easier to push onto the barbs of the taps.

We connected the tubing to the taps in the kitchen, before we went outside.

One last bit of prep (heh) was to add a duct tape stopper about 1.75" up the drill bit so we don't go too far into the tree.  We also drilled holes in the bucket lids; the tubing said 5/16", but it needed a hole a little larger than 3/8" to fit through.

First hole in the boxelder, and it started dripping immediately.  That's a good sign!

The two box elders that were big enough to tap are actually two trunks on the same tree.  It's also right on the property line, so we don't have access to the south side, which is the side most preferentially tapped.  The East side will have to do!

Here are the other three trees we tapped with out first five buckets.  None of them had sap running right away.  We scored three more buckets the next day, so the two elms and the other Bradford pear are next in line.  Woo hoo!  Visions of pancakes are dancing through our heads.

What kinds of trees are you tapping this year?

1 comment:

  1. That should be interesting! Can't wait to see what you get!