If you’ve ever tapped a maple tree, surely you’ve tasted the fresh sap — unprocessed and unboiled — straight from the tree.
If you have never tapped a maple tree, perhaps you’ve got one of those nice neighbors who generously shares his or her bounty of maple sap. Or perhaps you’ve even purchased and consumed any of the various “maple waters” on the market today.
And if you have no idea what I’m talking about (…tree sap? What the heck is that?), allow me to put this into context.
In late winter/early spring, sap rises in certain trees (i.e. maples and walnuts) due to temperature fluctuations — notably, the freeze/thaw cycle. In other species (i.e. birches), sap flow is governed by root pressure that forms once soil temperatures reach approximately 50° Fahrenheit. This sap contains water and dissolved nutrients (i.e. sugars) that travel up towards the branches, feeding the developing leaves.
Whenever these trees are wounded during this particular season, sap will flow from inside the trees (sapwood) out through their wounds. Such is the case whenever we tap a tree by placing a hole into its bark. This sap, after collection and prolonged exposure to heat, can be eventually reduced into syrup.
But wait! Before we boil down our precious sap, transforming it into one of nature’s finest sweeteners, we can appreciate this subtly-sweet liquid for all that it is.
In other words, we can drink it. Not only that, we can reap numerous health benefits in the process.
I was recently invited to speak at the Butler Outdoor Club’s monthly meeting, and as no February foraging presentation would be complete without mentioning the maple tree, I spent a few minutes discussing this tree’s food value.
In the following video, I discuss the health benefits associated with drinking maple syrup’s often overlooked forebear — maple sap.