Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring Tonics

Here's my favorite...what's yours?


24 comments:

  1. Since I live in the mostly treeless southwest Texas I don't know what I'm looking at here, boss. A little help?

    James H.

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  2. I've never seen such a thing, but I wondered if it was a birch tree, so I googled and found this wiki entry. So... are you collecting birch sap? What do you do with it? I'm from farther north than James but I still had never heard of this before.

    -Tanya

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  3. Yay! Tanya wins...

    Yes, this is how birch tree sap is collected. It only flows for a week or so each Spring. The birch tree sends highly nutritious water (stored in its roots all Winter)to the tips of each twig to force the buds to burst out into leaves and flowers.

    This birch sap contains about 1% of a very sweet sugar, mostly xylitol. It tastes mildly sweet, but very pure and refreshing. One could boil and reduce 100 gallons of the sap to create 1 gallon of pure syrup, similar to maple syrup.

    All across the birch trees range, people have been collecting this sap and drinking and bathing in it. Seen as a "spring tonic" the nutrients and minerals are thought to have a rejuvenating effect after a long winter of eating only stored foods. This is the very first plant food that can be obtained in most places where the birch grow.

    Wiki Say:

    "Birch sap contains heterosides (betuloside and monotropitoside), 17 amino acids including glutamic acid, as well as minerals, enzymes, proteins, betulinic acid and betulin, antioxidants, sugar (xylitol, fructose and glucose) and vitamins (C and B(group))."

    In addition to all this, deep within the roots live a complex ecosystem of bacteria and fungi just as which exist in a human. Ingesting birch water in the Spring undoubtedly help to replenish gut bacteria and to tell the immune system, "Summer's here!"

    Most ever place on Earth has a similar Spring tonic that was traditionally collected and eaten. Dandelions, willow shoots, wild asparagus, ramps, nettles...

    Find them...eat them.

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  4. For us, it was maple sap....yes, I come from a long line of sap suckers.

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  5. Me, I graze all day, just pick and eat, no washing needed - dandelions, nettles, cleavers, young tart almost lemony dock leaves (yum), violet leaves, mallow leaves... As these get older and tougher they start to be eaten cooked - soups, stir fries, casseroles, anywhere you'd use spinach or other greens.

    Just waiting for the call from a friend to say his fiddleheads are up.

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    1. Oh, fiddleheads! I'd forgotten about those. They do not grow here.

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  6. Cool. Mesquites just suck up water, they don't give it.

    James H.

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  7. Chickweed. It starts to take over my garden beds several weeks before spring greens start to show up at the local market, right about the time that I start craving fresh tender greens. I put a fat handful of it into my morning "salad in a jar" breakfast smoothie, and graze on it while I'm outdoors.

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    1. Sheesh, chickweed, how did I leave that out? It's the best of them all.

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    2. looks like chickweed is what's growing in my allotment. Harvest is very soon. :) Grows like crazy.

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    3. I think I am the only person in Alaska who does not have chickweed, lol. Everyone hates it (as a weed). I'm debating bringing some in, but maybe I'll just sneak over to the neighbors yard and pick his,

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  8. What effect does it have on the tree? Does the tree die? Does it get crowded out by its neighbors? Also, sounds delicious.

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    1. No, does not hurt the trees a bit. You can tap the same tree year after year. The wound quickly heals. The same thing happens naturally if a branch breaks off during the winter or if the tree gets a gash in it from a falling tree or whatever. The leaking sap helps the tree heal.

      It's good practice to plug the hole when done so insects can't get in. I use a small branch, jab it in and break it off.

      The sap is delicious. Today was my last day of collecting. I used most of today's haul to make a batch of oatmeal. I cooked about 1 gallon of water down to 1 quart, then added 1 cup of oat groats and cooked them unto the sap was further reduced. Wow! What a flavor. They were perfect just like that.

      I'll bet in the desert there are really cool spring tonics provided by cactus or the wildflowers. Is there yarrow where you live? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achillea_millefolium

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    2. Oh, sorry, that was James H from the desert southwest!

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    3. Tim. There is a wonderful outfit up your way in Fairbanks called "Sample Alaska". They produce Birch syrup and products for sale.

      The owners are friends of mine. Apparently, there is only about 5000 gallons of Birch syrup produced annually in the world.

      A big reason is the short sap season. He uses a reverse osmosis machine to reduce the water content of the Birch sap and evaporates it from there to some of the best tasting syrup you'll ever find.

      It is especially good lacquered on Salmon to make meat candy.

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    4. Sure, we all know those guys. Their use of RO is ingenious, and saves them lots of fuel for boiling. Last year, I boiled down about 100 gallons of sap to make 1/2 gallon of syrup. It took about 5 propane bottles, or nearly $150 to make 2 quarts of syrup, lol.

      I had plans to do the same using an outdoor wood stove and scrap firewood, but I really prefer just drinking the water. I'll buy my syrup from your buddy.

      If you know the owners, let them know there should be an even bigger market for birch water, like this: http://amzn.to/1T2xCp5

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  9. Ramps and morels.

    Barney

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    1. +1
      Not sure I will get any morels this year. We mostly find them the year after a big forest fire, but last year was rainy with no fires.

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  10. Would this be used to make something called Birch Beer, similar to Root Beer? When I was growing in Florida there was a place that made Birch Beer and it was like root beer only better.

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    1. I believe so, yes. That does sound good!

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  11. Did you use it as is or did you boil your down? My dad is a small producer of maple syrup in Indiana. He learned from his grandfather. Off topic a little, I've found maple syrup to be like wine, different from each locale and producer and year. I love that. Hope all is well! --Terri F

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    1. I just drink the water. I made a couple batches of oatmeal from oat groats using the water, too.

      Last year I spent considerable time and effort collecting and boiling birch sap to make a couple jars of syrup. It was very good, but we really don't use much syrup in my house, lol. So from now on, just drinking the water when it is naturally available.

      The same can be done with maple water. I see there are even people selling birch and maple waters on Amazon/internet. Unfortunately these are pasteurized and all bacteria dead. I love the "living" aspect of fresh birch water, and other spring tonics found when out grazing.

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    2. What an idea! To make your oats in it! And people selling the waters! I had no idea. Learn something every day!

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  12. I'm sure I'd love it, because "birch beer" is my favorite soda pop.

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