This summer my goal is to gather or harvest at least one plant a month. Usually I gather fiddlehead ferns and fireweed shoots in May, pick wild strawberries in June (I can’t disclose my secret spot!), hunt for boletes in the mid/late summer and harvest berries in the fall.
When UAF Cooperative Extension Service tweeted about birch tree tapping in mid-April, I knew I had to start my harvesting season early. I texted my good friend Ivan, knower of all things apian, and he told me I could find spiles, or birch tree taps, at Alaska Mill & Feed. I have several big birches in my yard, so it was worth a try!
With just a little hardware and a whole lot of stove time, you can have your own homemade birch syrup (I still haven’t reached syrup state, but you’ll see what I came up with in the meantime if you read below). I didn’t take step-by-step photos only because they would be pretty boring. It’s a lot of boiling. Follow this handy guide for a complete explanation.
Please keep in mind that I’ve never done this before, so I have no idea whether I’m doing it incorrectly. The instructions below is what worked for us. Let me know if you use a different/better technique!
Birch Tree Tapping in Anchorage
- 2 or more 7/16″ birch tree spiles ($5.99 each at Alaska Mill & Feed)
- 7/16″ drill bit
- Power drill
- Rubber mallet
- 2 or more 2-gallon buckets
- 3 or more 5-gallon buckets
- Tall kitchen bags
- Wire sieve
- Two large soup pots
- Small saucepan
- Lots of freezer space
- Candy thermometer