Birch Sapping

I found this old video from WBIR’s Heartland Series and knew I had to share it with you. You can just see the joy in their faces as they birch-sap together as a family. And you can hear how important they believe passing the tradition on to the next generation is by listening to their voices.

Don’t forget to click the speaker icon on the bottom right of the video to hear the sound.

I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I did!


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  • Reply
    June 9, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    This is a new one on me! If I ever have to take down a healthy birch I’ll give it a try. Whenever I have to take down a dead white birch, or find one that’s fallen, I always take as much of the bark as I can and put it aside for the next winter. It’s the best fire-starter I know – it will light even if it’s wet.

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Such a fun outing!
    Just have to be careful not to fell too many trees so there will be some left for the future!

  • Reply
    S. Taylor
    June 5, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for that Tipper. That was really neat. Up in Western NY near Buffalo, my older brother and I used to tap yellow birch trees like one would tap sugar maples to gather the sap. Then we’d boil it down to make a wintergreen flavored syrup. I had never seen or heard of eating the cambrium layer of the birch, however. I’ll bet the chewy texture of raw, tender wood fibers infused with a hint of wintergreen is delightful.

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I am just fascinated by some of the Appalachian traditions you uncover. I believe this is my favorite. A mystery to me is growing up with so many family with so much access to trees and forest, yet nobody ever participated in this. Except for the occasional birch twig there was no other memory of utilizing a birch tree It was told to me that my great grandfather utilized these different tasty twigs for toothbrushes. Sassafras was a different matter, as I have enjoyed many tasty drinks of sassafras tea. My mother once tried an experiment of roasting dandelion roots as a substitute for coffee I probably missed the caffeine, but found this surprisingly palpable. I have eaten ginseng, and it was great…Dad had a great little patch of this that even we children were not told of the whereabouts. Now I am learning so much about the Birch tree.

    You continue to amaze me, Tipper! Just when I think there is “nothing new under the sun” you come up with something so interesting it makes me want to do further research. Please continue to feed us with all this Appalachian knowledge. I know of no other site, book, or person with such a fresh approach each and every day to our Appalachian speech, traditions, and culture.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 5, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Looks like so much fun! Do they make a drink from the scrapings that they take home??

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 5, 2018 at 9:21 am

    I loved seeing this video again…since I try never to miss on that they still view on our local WBIR station. I can’t remember my Daddy or Mother saying that they ever did this as a family. I have heard Dad mentioning how wonderful the inside (cambium) did taste…He made birch toothbrushes to show us when we were kids and how they used them to brush their teeth..However, he said that all stopped when toothbrushes came into being…those had wooden handles not plastic. Dad was born in nineteen eleven…His Mother always used birch (tip shredded) to dip in her snuff jar/can and kept it in her apron pocket along with a (not so white) handkerchief and snuff…This until she passed at an old age. She always wore an apron although she had quit cooking years before…always had big pockets in it as well…
    The only big family thing I remember was going Blueberry picking in the mountains…Taking big jugs of cold water and tea plus the big picnic lunch. “Watch for snakes!”, “Don’t sit in poison ivy!” plus “Look around that rock or log before you sit on it!” were common warnings…when we went berry picking. I’m here to tell you nothing tastes better than true mountain blueberries but back breaking work to fill a bucket…I’ll save blackberry picking story for another time…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I also loved the closing of the video about as much as anything with that harmony singing…

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Well I’ll be dipped in whip cream. I ain’t never seed ner heard tell of such. Actually I have. I’ve peeled the bark off several species of trees but have never thought of eating any of it. Remember my post about peeling poplar to use as framing for a shed. We also peeled pine poles for framing. Now that is a sticky situation.
    When I was young our neighbor Luther built a big barn out of peeled poplar logs. He didn’t frame with it, he stacked the poles log cabin style. He didn’t chink between the logs though so you could peep between them and see inside. That worked out well for him too because he made home brew in there and he could look out through the logs and see anybody approaching. He made some pretty good home brew. I was too young to drink then but I didn’t know it. That was some good times.
    I remember when some loggers were working up the branch above us. They built a little shelter at the landing out of nothing but bark. They used it to keep equipment in the dry. And themselves too when it came up a thunderstorm. You had to get down and crawl inside but it kept the rain off you. It only lasted a couple of years before it rotted and fell. That is the first and last time I ever saw that done.

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Don’t know much about identifying trees, but that kinda looks like what I call a beech tree. Are beech and certain varieties of birch similar trees?

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 8:48 am

    What a wonderful way to spend the day with family. The kids seemed to enjoy the pulp and that tells me it must be good. This video has got me wanting to try birch sapping.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 5, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Since Miss Cindy asked, I would think the scrapings could be dried and powdered and used as a spice or flavoring. I wonder if any of the Foxfire books mention anybody doing anything like that.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 5, 2018 at 8:31 am

    The Scott County, TN in the video is the adjacent county to the south of my home county. The Coffey family is doing about like we did except we didn’t add any sugar. Maybe somebody in Appalachia needs to start a Birch Festival. (Btw, I don’t know where he got the name “white birch”. I never heard that before.)

    Your last two posts about birch remind me again how I have looked for years trying to find Christmas hard candy mix with all the old-fashioned natural flavors; orange, lemon, lime, grape, cinnamon, birch, root beer, wintergreen, clove, etc. Still looking. Guess it is too much trouble to make anymore. I’ll bet there are craft soda people though who make birch soda.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 5, 2018 at 7:20 am

    Never heard of that, Tip. Looks like they made a day of it and gathered quite a bit if the sweet stuff inside the bark. Did they take it home and preserve it, I wonder?

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 5:28 am

    That’s very interesting, didn’t know you could do that, I vaguely remember Mamaw talking about making tooth brushing or something like that, but not eating the inner bark. Watching them walk in the woods like that I’ve gost chiggers and seed ticks on my mind, because recently got both on me, still getting over the chiggers, the seed ticks are every where this year seemingly.

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