Appalachia Appalachian Food Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Old Time Snacks


Snacks to Pass the Time – Sidney Saylor Farr

In early June, Mother and Aunt Mossie used to take all the children and go birch-sapping. It was an annual event we looked forward to each spring. Mother always said birch sap was the very best if taken during the first new moon in June. We always looked for a tree that was at least twenty-four inches in diameter-a smaller tree would die if you removed too much bark. (Father always cut the bark and stripped it away in a complete circle around the trees which he wanted to kill in order to clear new ground for a patch of corn.) We carried buckets, spoons, a hatchet or long sharp knife when we set out.


Select a tree at least 24 inches in diameter. Using a hatchet or sharp knife, cut a square or rectangular outline in the bark. After the patch is outlined take a flat knife and insert it under the bark all along the edges. When the piece has been loosened so that you can get your fingers under the edges you can strip it from the tree. Use a large tablespoon to scrape the fiber from the inside of the bark (do this a soon as each piece is taken from the tree). Drop the long strips of sappy fiber into a pail in which you have put clear, sweet, spring water. Getting it into the water quickly will keep the fiber from turning dark. When you have enough for your purposes, add 1/2 cup sugar and let the mixture stand for an hour or so in a cool place. Drain off the liquid and you have a delightful summertime drink. The birch pulp can be eaten also.

“More Than Moonshine” – Sidney Saylor Farr


I’ve wanted to try this recipe ever since I first read it several years ago, but I haven’t managed to get around to it yet. Go here to see a family who does manage to birch-sap every year.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    George Pettie
    June 4, 2018 at 11:31 pm

    Sweet Birch twigs were my chewing gum and flossing sticks.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    June 4, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Oh my goodness. Bless them. I’m glad to be living now. On way to bakery..

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 4, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve heard of this…never been to a birch sapping…My Dad would get his Mom twigs of birch..she loved them to dip her snuff with. He would make us a toothbrush out of twigs also. Telling us as he shredded the tip with his pocket knife that this is what they used to brush their teeth when they were boys…They always tasted sweet and the fiber on the tip lasted a good long time…
    I would love to go gather the scrapings of birch and try it…Dad also used to cut us pieces of sugar chew. I remember loving chewing on sugar cane. Mom loved sassafras and would chew on the roots when she gathered some for tea. Now a days I hear its not too good for you. Oh well, neither is smelling all those car fumes in the city…LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    Love this post.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Never heard of it, but use to dig sasafras roots and make a tea.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 4, 2018 at 11:37 am

    When I was little, I had to get the milk out of the cool spring. There were birch trees all over our property, but I never had any of the big stuff. I just broke off the smaller saplings and chewed on them. I liked sassafras too. Come to think of it, I never tried to get the fiests to try chewing on Birch. …Ken

  • Reply
    June 4, 2018 at 11:03 am

    I knew more as a child about wild edibles than I know now. I remember chewing on birch twigs, wild greens, sassafras tea, and some type of little sour weed I still recognize. We ate May Apples and many wild strawberries. It was children telling children it was okay to eat this and that, and I am surprised that we all survived. I have forgotten so much, and have become very selective as I have grown older. This tea sounds great!

    My new favorite book to keep in the car and read at intervals is Mr. Farr’s book “More Than Moonshine.” It is entertaining and gives me knowledge I could never learn elsewhere. It seems life is full of short waiting periods, and I long ago picked up the habit of keeping a book that is light reading close at hand. Thank you, Tipper. for again giving us another entertaining read this morning. Love your choice of pictures.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I’ve never heard of birch sapping. That surprises me, coming from a family who knew every edible thing in the field or forest. I buy Birch Beer when I can find it. Wonder if the drink Farr wrote about has the same flavor. It’s taste is similar to Root Beer. Finding a tree 24 inches in diameter could be a problem. That’s a big tree!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 4, 2018 at 8:43 am

    I have tasted birchbark soda pop, which is delicious, but never heard of this before! Sounds so good,
    but there aren’t any birch trees in this neck of the woods. Sigh.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2018 at 8:40 am

    To me birch has a wintergreen kind of flavor about it. I used to chew on birch twigs and brush my teeth with them but I don’t think I would like to drink the juice from it. Sides that I don’t know where any birch trees are. I had one but cut it down because it was choking out my only dogwood.

  • Reply
    aw griffgrowin
    June 4, 2018 at 8:04 am

    I’ve chewed many a birch twig while in the woods grouse hunting. but don’t know anyone who made this drink. I bet that would be really good.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 4, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Mr. Farr is referring to the sweet birch, also called black birch. It would probably work with yellow birch also. It would not work with river birch.

    We did a variation. We did not put the pulp (the inner ivory-colored cambium layer) into water. We just used a spoon to scrape it off the outer bark and ate it. It is the original sweet birch flavor; a mix of cinnamon-hot, sweet and root beer flavor If allowed to ferment, it would make birch beer.

    A gentler alternate is just to chew on the tender new twigs.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 4, 2018 at 6:53 am

    I’ve never done that Tip, I’ve never even heard of it. I have made Sassafras tea from the root of the tree and it’s quite tasty.

  • Leave a Reply