The first winter we lived in NE Missouri, I was treated to a beverage that I had neither heard of nor tasted before: tree sap. Our neighbors routinely tapped their black walnut trees, not to make syrup like we have done for the past two winters, but to drink the clear, slightly sweet sap as a spring tonic.
Why drink sap?
- Sap is an ultra-seasonal and ultra-local, 100% natural healthy beverage
- Sap flows out of the tree pure and cold; a perfect refreshment
- Sap is loaded with minerals, nutrients, enzymes, antioxidants, phenolic compounds and more
- Several cultures worldwide drink sap as a spring tonic, and research has found that birch sap in particular may have medicinal properties
- Sap is practically free for the tapping. With a very minimal investment, you can harvest your own sap from backyard trees
While maple sap may have the highest percentage of sugars, other trees such as birches and walnuts may also be tapped to collect sap. I find the black walnut sap to be only just slightly sweet, with a flavor that is unlike any other beverage I’ve tasted.
How to collect sap
Sap for drinking is collected exactly how you would collect sap for making syrup. But because sap is not boiled down like syrup, extra care should be taken in how you collect and handle sap. Use a clean, sterilized tap and food grade bucket, and keep the sap cool until you drink it to avoid bacterial contamination.
How to drink sap
Sap has a light, sweet flavor, and is delicious on its own, straight from the tree! But to sass it up a bit, consider the following uses:
- Sweetened lightly with fruit juice
- Added to smoothies
- Used in place of water in recipes and baked goods
- In place of coconut water or electrolyte drinks for an awesome post-workout pick me up
If you only have a few tappable trees in your yard, or you don’t have the time to invest in boiling down syrup, try collecting and drinking sap as a spring tonic. And let me know how you like it!