Imagine sitting down to breakfast on Saturday morning, and pouring some fresh, warm, maple syrup on a big ol’ pile of pancakes. Imagine eating those pancakes, and looking outside at the tree that gave you that maple syrup. The good news is, you don’t have to imagine it! Tapping your tree is literally one of the easiest outdoor projects my husband and I have ever done. And you don’t need to have a maple tree!
What trees can you tap?
Contrary to popular belief, there are a ton of trees you can tap! But, you only get maple syrup from Maple trees. So if maple syrup is what you’re after, then find yourself a maple tree.
If you don’t have any maple trees where you live, however, don’t give up hope! Birch trees produce a sap that is highly sought after, and very valuable! It tastes delicious, and also has lots of nutritional benefits. You can also tap oak trees, linden trees, walnut trees, and more. Before you tap any old tree, though, make sure you know exactly what kind of tree it is. Some trees are endangered and should be left alone, and a few trees produce sap that’s actually toxic.
Will any Maple tree work?
If you didn’t know, there are lots of subspecies of Maple trees. You’ve got the Red Maple, Silver Maple, and Sugar Maple, just to name a few. Each of these types of trees have different types of sap. And while they all will make Maple syrup, they each have their differences. For instance, depending on the type of Maple you tap, the sap will have a different sugar content. Sugar Maples (aptly named) have the highest sugar content, and therefore the sweetest syrup. These are the trees that make the syrup you put on pancakes and waffles.
Just because you don’t have a tree with the highest sugar content doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. All it means is that it might take a little longer to boil your sap down to syrup, and that you might need more sap to get the same amount of syrup if it were coming from a Sugar Maple.
What materials do you need to tap a tree?
Tapping your tree is honestly pretty anticlimactic. My husband and I both thought it was going to be this big ordeal, but it took all of about two minutes. Literally.
You can get a kit, or piece meal a set up. It’s up to you. Since it was our first time, we bought a kit. You’ll need a drill with a drill bit, a hammer, some spiles (the size of your spile will dictate the size of your drill bit), and a way to collect your sap. The two most common methods are either letting the sap drip right into a bag with a bag holder or bucket, or connecting the tap to a tube and having the tube run into a bag or bucket. There’s no real difference between either, it’s just tubing is supposed to be a bit more efficient.
Here’s how to tap your tree:
We chose to use the bags to collect our sap because that’s what came in our kit. We followed the instructions in the book it came with, and it went smooth as can be.
So here’s how to tap your tree:
- Drill two inches into the south facing side of your tree. South gets warmest because of the sun, therefore the sap will run faster. So make sure you know which way is south!
- Use a hammer to gently tap your spile into the hole you just drilled. Don’t go too far in, or you won’t be able to hang your bag/ bucket.
- Attach the hanger with your bag, or hang your bucket. Watch the sap start to drip out.
- Walk away.
THAT’S IT! My mind was seriously blown!
The next steps…
Once you’ve tapped your tree, monitor your sap flow and watch your bags get super full! When you feel like you have a couple gallons or more, it’s time to process. AKA make some syrup!
We should have between eight to ten gallons of sap by this weekend, and that’s when we’re going to do our first processing. Go ahead and get tapping, and I’ll have another post coming soon on how to process your sap!
Share your experience
I want to see how your tapping goes! Be sure to tag me in any photos you post on Instagram or Facebook @sweetgumspot, and follow me while you’re there! I look forward to celebrating our successes and working through challenges together!
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