More than Maple Water
If you enjoy coconut water, as we do—we use it regularly in our green juices blended daily in our ancient Vitamix—you may also want to look for and try some “sap on tap”, sweet water now available in health food and specialty store. The tree water isn’t nearly as sweet naturally, in our experience, but it has numerous nutritional benefits and has been used as a healthy elixir for centuries in Europe and Asia.
If you’re looking into home businesses you can do from your homestead, you may be interested in reading more on this. We found it intriguing, and while we don’t expect to go into the tree water business… you never know, and at the very least, we can do this for our family from our own trees!
Not only that, having this knowledge is another survival skill to know, should you ever need it.
By Brian Barth on Modern Farmer1)http://modernfarmer.com/?s=maple+entrepreneurs
A new wave of maple entrepreneurs are skipping the laborious syrup boiling process—where sap is reduced to 1/40th of its original volume to create the beloved pancake dressing—and marketing the pure watery sap as a health drink instead. The first maple water companies emerged over the last few years in Canada, but the idea has now infiltrated the American market. The drink is primarily found in health food stores in New England, but distribution is ramping up and this year’s maple water harvest should hit stores across the country in the coming months.
You may enjoy this clip from Dragon Den featuring the entrepreneurs of Seva Maple Water.2)http://business.financialpost.com/2015/01/26/seva-maple-waters-dragons-den-deal-in-limbo-as-treliving-chilton-walk-away/?__lsa=7dd5-87ccThis is where we learned of the anticipated growth into a billion dollar industry by 2025.
Tree Water… “Good for the Bones”
In South Korea, it’s tradition to drink maple water, called Gorosoe, as written about in this NY Times article: Drinks Are on the Maple Tree, by By
HADONG, South Korea — At this time of year, when frogs begin stirring from their winter sleep and woodpeckers drill for newly active insects, villagers climb the hills around here to collect a treasured elixir: sap from the maple tree known as gorosoe.
For centuries, southern Korean villagers like Mr. Park have been tapping the gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones.”
Unlike North Americans who collect maple sap to boil down into syrup, Korean villagers and their growing number of customers prefer the sap itself, which they credit with a wide range of health benefits.
In this they are not alone. Some people in Japan and northern China drink maple sap, and birch sap has its fans in Russia and other parts of northern Europe. But no one surpasses southern Koreans in their enthusiasm for maple sap, which they can consume in prodigious quantities.3)http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/06/world/asia/06maple.html?_r=0
Birch Tree Water Benefits
There doesn’t appear to be definitive American studies on the nutritive or medicinal benefit of birch and other tree waters, however it has been used therapeutically for centuries in Europe and the East. Knowledge of the vitamins, minerals amino acids and other beneficial nutrients are enough to tell us that this simple sap water is inevitably beneficial for your health.
If you have certain plant and tree allergies, it may be that birch water may actually help alleviate your allergic reactions. Of course you need to proceed with caution, as did Petra Ossowski Larsson. 4)http://www.cybis.se/craft/birch/
Birch tree sap or birch tree water as it’s more commonly called commercially, is associated with detoxing the kidneys and liver and flushing toxins from the body.
Nutritional and Medicinal Uses
Birch sap contains heterosides (betuloside and monotropitoside), amino acids including glutamic acid, as well as minerals, enzymes, proteins, betulinic acid and betulin, antioxidants, sugar (xylitol, fructose and glucose) and vitamins B & C.
Birch sap is commonly known for its detoxifying, diuretic, cleansing and purifying properties. Heterosides present in birch sap release methyl salicylate by enzymatic hydrolysis which is analgesic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic. The activation of diuresis helps eliminating organic wastes such as uric acid and cholesterol. Birch sap is also known for helping with joint and bone health, loss of hair, arthritis, and weight loss, as well as hyperuricemia, hypercholesterolemia and to treat kidney stones.5)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch_sap
Harmless Tapping of Tree Sap
Naturally, some of us are tree lovers concerned about any possible harm or damage to the trees. Fortunately tree tapping is relatively harmless if done right.
As we wrote on one of the Gardens All Facebook threads:
“Like you, we LOVE trees. Live deeply amongst them in the woods, and built our home by hand cutting only what absolutely had to be cut to build, then of course used that wood for heating. So we’re with you in love of trees and compassion for all living things.
But there is another side to trees. Trees are also a plant, essentially, and serve in so many ways. One of the many gifts of trees is as crops, of which there are many different kinds. With the syrup and tree water industry, while a “wound” is created in the trunk, studies show6)https://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc/wilmot_taphole.pdf that that wound is akin to a wound in our body. It develops “scar tissue” around it, then carries on as normal. Relative to the sapping of its resources… if we sweat and get dehydrated, we drink more water. Similarly, as tree water is extracted, the tree simply pulls more water from the soil through its own filtering system which then contributes more nutrients to the water.”
Trees teach us how to adapt: they just keep on growing!
The study cited and linked here says:
For sugaring [and tree water] to be a viable industry, it must be sustainable and not lead to the decline of our trees. Drilling a taphole does make a wound, but with proper tapping procedure and sensible tapping guidelines, (as can be found in the new North American Maple Syrup Producer’s Manual),7)http://www.agmrc.org/media/cms/Maple1_74116E2C32052.pdf we can be assured that these wounds are minor, and that the tree will be able to repair itself, or can function well without the small volume of wood with non-functional vessels. With proper care in sapling collecting, as well as in many other aspects of forest management, our maples trees can last for many generations of future sugarmakers.8)file:///Users/leaura%20alderson%20laptop/Desktop/wilmot_taphole.pdf
For examples of excessive tapping to avoid, you may be interested in this research by the Forest Service US Department of Agriculture Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Broomall, PA.9)http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/gtr/gtr_ne47.pdf
And, from Judy of the Woods:
“The easy way to tap a tree (thanks, Rob, for this great tip) is by simply cutting, or even breaking off the end of some thin branches. Put the branches into the neck of a bottle, tie the bottle to the branches and gently weigh them down to make sure the bottle hangs in as upright a position as possible. Branches want to point upwards. You can tie a small log or other weight to the branches, tie them to vegetation below or lean a long stick of the right weight onto the branches to make them bend down.
There is no need for any sealing after the tapping. The small twigs will heal over by themselves. This method is suitable for any tree where the branches are easy to reach, and can be done on younger trees. From JudyOfTheWoods.net 10)http://www.judyofthewoods.net/forage/tree_sap.html
We Tapped Birch, Maple and Sycamore – Lightly
So we tried tapping birch, maple, and sycamore trees on our acreage. We got the most from our birch trees from the trunk. We tried tethering sturdy plastic bags to the end of snipped limbs to see what would drain out. We did get a little bit of fresh liquid from some, and can see how that would work with a little more pruning, so a great thing to do when pruning a tree. Similarly, if you were stranded in the woods and needed water, you could snap off the end of a thin limb and likely accrue enough tree water to survive, especially if you didn’t have tools or vessels for capturing larger amounts from a trunk.
We also tapped with a spout. The birch by the stream gushed water from the spout and it was hard to seal it back. So we felt really bad that the tree continued to “weep”, even after our bottle was filled. Before we tap a tree trunk again—especially the birch trees—we will be sure to have a better tree wound sealant to stop the flow.
How Did it Taste?
Scarcely sweet, but very clean and refreshing. There’s something about it that feels vital and nourishing in the same way fresh garden vegetables do. Would we do it again? Yes, in the spring, we will tap a tree at a time for some fresh spring elixir, so long as we can continue to determine that there’s no harm to the trees.
As for a viable business…? It certainly seems feasible, and these are already being sold in retail stores and on Amazon. However, it may never become the phenomenon that coconut water has become because it takes a lot more to create the same amount of liquid tapping a tree as it does from a coconut. Plus coconuts yield their liquid without sapping the tree.
Since there’s more involved in harvesting tree water, it will necessarily remain more expensive, which could prevent it from ever catching on with the masses. But meanwhile, if you have a few trees on your property, you might enjoy giving it a go and tapping a tree next spring.
If you’re into hiking, camping, prepping and survival preparedness, you’ll want to place a tree spout in your bug out bag or hiking back pack, just in case. If you’re ever stranded in a forest in need of water, tapping a tree could save you. For that matter, also a great idea to have a Life Straw handy for filtering water to drink.
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