I’m a New England girl. I live right on the Maine/New Hampshire line, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Vermont, the syrup capital of the world. Tree tapping and syrup making are in my blood. Okay, so I haven’t really done it, other than to supervise when I was little, but it’s something I feel I must be doing. Unfortunately, I only have two maples on my property and neither is a sugar maple. I don’t have the time, patience or space to plant sugar maples. I feel as though I am no fulfilling my destiny as a New England homesteader.
Then I had a great conversation with a friend of mine at Homespun Seasonal Living when she mentioned this company, Maple Tapper, to me. She told me you can tap many types of trees for syrup. For real? There is a long list of non-traditional trees, but here’s the short list:
Well, that’s a given, but did you know you aren’t limited to Sugar Maples? You can also tap Black, Red, Silver, Bigleaf, Canyon, and Rocky Mountain Maples. Sugar maples are most commonly used because of their high sugar content (hence the name), but you’ll just need more sap and a longer boil time from the other varieties to make up for the difference.
White, Black, and English Walnuts are good candidates for tapping. They produce a more earthy flavor than maples and don’t produce quite as much sap, but you can tap them at a younger age than you can a maple.
Paper, Yellow, Black, Gray, and European White Birches can be tapped for syrup as well. Alaska is known for it’s Paper Birch Syrup. With a sap to syrup ratio of 100:1, it’s more labor intensive to make birch syrup, but the market price for it more than makes up for it.
Sycamores can be found in all the lower 48 states and there’s a good chance you can find one in your neighborhood (if not in your own backyard). Sycamore sap can be combined with any other type of sap if you only have one or two trees. I have heard that Sycamore Syrup tastes like butterscotch.
Ironwood sap runs a bit later in the season, but from what I hear, it’s worth the wait. Much like the other trees, you need more sap to create a syrup, but the flavor is very rich.
Well, yay! I have two Red Maples and a Paper Birch. I am good to go!
How to Tap for Syrup
Now that we know what to tap, here are some answers to common syrup tapping questions.
How many taps do I need?
The average tap produces 1/3 gallon of syrup. Of course, that number will fluctuate based on the weather and the type of tree.
How many taps can I put in each tree?
A tree of 10-17″ in diameter can fit one tap. A tree of 18-24″ in diameter can fit 2 taps. A tree of 25″ or more in diameter can fit three taps.
Where can I get more information about making syrup?
Your local Cooperative Extension is a great place to get information that is specific to where you live. If this isn’t a resource you’ve been using in your homesteading journey, now is the time to start. Maple Tapper also provides a great list of resources that will walk you through the process.