EdibleBush

Birch Sap

We are now at the height of the birch sap collecting season and I am out every other day with my spiles and drill and hammer. I started collecting early this year - the mild, wet weather in Dorset encouraged an early sap rising. The early sap, however, is quite low in sugar (about one half of one percent) but is almost up to one percent now and with more flavour. Not that it ever has much flavour.

I have a long standing argument with Hugh FW about birch sap wine. He reckons it is marvellous stuff with a slightly woody tang to it. I maintain that as birch sap is almost tasteless a wine made from water (assuming all the other ingredients - concentrated grape juice, lemon juice etc. are kept identical) would taste the same. Well I have at last enbarked on a couple of controlled experiments to settle the matter once and for all. I rather hope I am wrong. Still, it will be nice to said I have made wine from water - there is only one recorded incident of this happening and it was a long time ago.

I suspect, though I can find no reference to it anywhere, that, historically, birch sap wine would be made from concentrated sap (it is a source of a difficult to find commodity - sugar). So I have boiled down six litres to get a pathetic half a litre or so which will have the required sugar content (not to mention a lot more flavour) for winemaking.

I have collected about twenty litres so far - too much to just make wine with - and intend to make some syrup with it. Reduced to a high sugar content it tastes like treacle and diesal oil so I will stop the reduction early and add sugar, effectively using the sap as a flavouring. Great on pancakes.

Probably the best way to use the sap is as a straight drink. It is very slightly sweet and incredibly fresh tasting. I was talking to the very lovely Polish girl in our garage and she says her father collects it just to use as a drink and as a tonic. I have seen the stuff bottled for sale online and it fetches an impressive £10 per litre. I keep telling my wife we are rich but all she thinks about is the lack of room in our fridge. Women, eh?

If you intend to collect some sap then you will have to hurry. The sap stops rising in a week or two and the late sap is what the maple tappers call "buddy" (the buds by then are just starting to appear) and has some nasty off flavours including a distinct popcorn aroma.

 

Cheers,

 

John

 

 

John Wright: 14th Mar 2011 10:00:00



Foraging Courses with John

Come and book on one of my own forays. Other forays will be posted elsewhere with links to the organisation running the day.

Click to find out more

Latest NewsSee all News »

A Letter to the New Forest Verderers

I knew something was rumbling in the undergrowth and in late July 2015, a journalist from the Bournemouth local paper asked me to respond to some surprising words delivered by my friend, Sarah Cadbury, to the Verderers of the New Forest. I duly responded. A day or two later, a journalist from the Times asked if I would write a 300 word rebuttal. On Saturday 25th I did a Google search on the story and found myself in the Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian. And not in a good way. The Verders were bystanders in this but I thought I owed them a letter. Here it is. The Verderer’s Court of the New Forest I am writing both to the Court and to the Forestry Commission on the subject of wild mushroom hunting in the Forest. It is my intention to copy this letter to othe...

Conservation part 2

This is the second part of what will now be a three part treatment of conservation and foraging. On this page I have adapted the section on conservation from my River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook. The third part will deal with the fungi. People can become very disquieted over the matter of conservation and foraging. Surely, they argue, we should not be taking things from the wild for our own purposes; surely nature has been injured by us enough without this further imposition. This is not an argument with which I have a great deal of sympathy. It is, of course, perfectly possible to forage in a manner that is damaging to the natural world, but it is not actually all that easy. Many of our native species are under threat but it is not from the forager. Invasive species take a toll of habit...

Books For Sale

The Naming of the Shrew (paperback edition)

Latin names - frequently unpronounceable, all too often wrong and always a tiny puzzle to unravel - have been annoying the layman since they first became formalised as scientific terms in the eighteenth century. Why on earth has the entirely land-loving Eastern Mole been named Scalopus aquaticus, or the Oxford Ragwort been called Senecio squalid...

£9.99

Click to buy A Signed Copy!

Mushrooms

In the first of an exciting new River Cottage Handbook series, mycologist John Wright explains the ins and outs of collecting, including relevant UK laws, conservation notes, practical tips and identification techniques. He takes us through the 72 species we are most likely to come across during forays in Britain’s forests and clearings: ...

£14.99

Click to buy A Signed Copy!

Seashore

In the fifth of the River Cottage Handbook series, John Wright reveals the rich pickings to be had on the seashore – and the team at River Cottage explain how to cook them to perfection. For the forager, the seashore holds surprising culinary potential. In this authoritative, witty book John Wright takes us on a trip to the seaside. But be...

£14.99

Click to buy A Signed Copy!

Hedgerow

Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager. In this hugely informative and witty handbook, John Wright reveals how to spot the free and delicious ingredients to be found in the British countryside, and then how to prepare and cook them. First John touches on the basics for the hedgerow forager, with ...

£14.99

Click to buy A Signed Copy!

Booze

What could possibly beat a cool pint of beer down the pub or a lazy glass of wine at your favourite bar? The answer is: home-brewed beer or your very own brand of wine. With this, the twelfth in the River Cottage Handbook series, the inimitable John Wright shows exactly how easy it is to get started. You don't need masses of space to make alcoh...

£14.99

Click to buy A Signed Copy!