By Rebekah Pierce
Firewood: check. Fruit: check. Building materials: check.
These have got to be the three most valuable things a tree can provide for you, right?
Believe it or not, when it comes to some types of trees, the most valuable commodity it can give you is hidden deep inside. Very few people tap their own trees, but if you’re trying to live a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and have maple, birch, or other certain types of trees growing on your property, you’re really missing out.
There are plenty of trees that can be tapped for their sap, but not all species are equally beneficial (or as easy to tap). Here’s how adding tree tapping to your life can make a huge difference on your journey toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
What Kinds of Trees Can Be Tapped?
Chances are, you’ve had maple syrup, so you probably already know that this is one tree that you can tap on your property. However, it’s far from the only option.
Pine is an under-utilized tree species in many regards. Tap a pine tree, and you can benefit from the ability of the sap as it's used as an antiseptic, astringent, and anti-inflammatory agent. It’s a great resin to have in your medicine cabinet if you’re trying to practice holistic medicine.
Often, you don’t even have to tap a pine tree to benefit from all this goodness - you will sometimes be able to peel the pieces of amber directly off the tree.
Birch is another option. You can make a thin, sweet syrup from this tree’s sap - a syrup that contains xylitol sugars, enzymes, amino acids, and proteins, all of which have phenomenal healing properties. The syrup tastes delicious in recipes like desserts and sodas.
Of course, there’s always maple syrup, too. Maple syrup is ubiquitous for its uses on pancakes, biscuits, and other breakfast goodies. It can also be used as a much healthier alternative to other sugars, like cane sugar. Although the sugar content is more or less the same, maple syrup has a ton of antioxidants and vitamins that ordinary sugar does not.
The Basics of Tree Tapping
Although the syrup you buy at the store is made from tapped trees growing on thousand-acre plantations, in most cases, you don’t need more than a couple of trees to start your own self-sustaining tree tapping project at home.
However, you do need to have the right climate, as tree tapping is weather-dependent. Sap is best gathered when it is actively “running,” which is when daytime temperatures are just above freezing (around 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) and nights fall below freezing.
You can tap using lines or buckets - if you’re new to tree tapping and are only doing it on a small scale, buckets are the way to go. You will need to do your research before you tap your tree, as different species of trees are best harvested at certain heights and diameters.
Either way, you’ll drill a hole into the tree with a bit size recommended for the spile (the piece that will go inside the tree). Once you have started a decently-sized hole, you can press your spile into the tree at a slight downward angle. Then, hammer the spile into the tree.
Not sure if sap is running? You’ll find a drop at the tip of the spoil if it is. You can then hang your collection bucket from the spile, but make sure you cover it to prevent bugs and debris from getting inside!
Usually, you’ll be able to harvest sap once a day, but this can vary depending on how well the sap is running and what kind of tree you are tapping.
Uses for Sap
Once your sap is harvested, there are so many things you can do with it. Not only does tapping your own trees allow you to connect with nature, but it will allow you to make use of every square inch of your homestead property.
Tapping trees does take some time, but you’ll get a huge reward for the time you’ve expended. Plus, sap is highly nutritious. Maple sap is viewed as a springtime tonic by many people around the world.
Consisting of 98% water and 2% sugar, maple sap is loaded with nutrients, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, phenolic compounds, and more. Some studies suggest that maple sap has more than 50 different vitamins and minerals! Sap from other trees, like birch, pine, and walnut trees, isn't that far off.
Sap is mostly sterile when inside the tree, so as long as you take ample measures to prevent contamination once your trees are tapped, you shouldn't have to worry about getting sick. You can often drink sap straight from the tree, but it can also be used for cooking, baking, beer making, soda making, herbal medicine, and much, much more.
There’s no better way to enjoy the crisp air of the spring and the beauty of your own landscape than to start tapping your own trees - even if it’s just a few at a time. It doesn’t have to be a super costly or time-consuming habit. Tapping just one or two trees can make a huge difference on your journey toward self-sustainability. It doesn’t hurt the tree at all, so you don’t have to worry about losing the value of the trees growing on your land, either.
Become More Self-Sufficient: One Tap at a Time
Tree tapping certainly isn’t the only way you can become more self-sufficient, but it’s a great way to start. If you’re new to tapping trees, you might want a bit of guidance. That's where Wildline Solutions can help.
Whether your goal is tap all the maple and birch trees on your property or perhaps to start with something a little less time-consuming, like composting, Wildline has the information you need to be successful. Your journey toward self-sufficiency starts today - all you need to do is contact Wildline Solutions for a detailed plan tailored specifically to your needs.