Dianne St. Jean
Leon Lorenz and his family harvest sap from the birch trees on their property as soon as the sap beings to flow in the spring.
Leon Lorenz and his family harvest sap from the birch trees on their property as soon as the sap beings to flow in the spring.
Leon Lorenz photo

While maple is the most commonly known source of tree sap in Canada, birch sap, also known as birch water, is increasing in popularity.

Tree saps provide us with a variety of nutrients. More commonly known are the sugars such as fructose and glucose that give them their sweet taste, but they also contain essential amino acids, minerals, proteins and enzymes. The trees store these nutrients over the winter, which are then released in the sap once the weather warms in the springtime and thaw begins.

According to a number of research studies, birch water is one of the healthiest energy drinks you can consume. Slightly sweet, its main sugar is xylitol, which is used as a natural, low-calorie sweetener in chewing gum and some candies. Unlike maple, birch sap does not contain the disaccharide or “double sugar” sucrose. Consequently, it only contains between two to three grams of sugar per cup.

It is also thought that xylitol decreases the risk of cavities.

Minerals in birch water are in trace amounts, but it does contain several plant nutrients, or phytochemicals, as well as amino acids that contribute to good health.

Birch water is believed to be an effective body cleanser. As a diuretic, it helps to flush out harmful toxins, uric acid and excess water from the body and is thought to have detoxifying effects, capturing and neutralizing toxic matter including alcohol, saturated fats and even pesticides.

What some are just discovering about birch sap or water has been known and enjoyed by Robson Valley wildlife explorer and photographer Leon Lorenz and family for years.

Lorenz and his family have tapped the sap from birch trees on their property for at least ten years.

“I make my own spouts out of short 5/8 inch dowel pieces which I taper down to half inch at one end and drill an 1/8 inch hole through the center,” explains Lorenz. “I use a half inch drill bit to bore a hole about 1¼ inches into the tree.”
The pails are covered with cheesecloth on to which his wife Helen sews elastic so that insects can't get into the pails.
“We get about two gallons from each tree per day once the sap really starts to flow,” says Lorenz.

“We drink all we want during this time and we also freeze about 20 - 30 gallons to use later. When I'm finished tapping the trees for the season I remove the spouts and drive a half inch dowel into the tree and cut it off flush with the tree trunk. I also use different trees each year.”

And here’s one more reason to consider enjoying the benefits of the birch. Tapping trees for sap is more sustainable than, let’s say, harvesting coconut and other plants for their sugar, which are destroyed in the process.