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Spring Time Tapping

 
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Who plans on tapping trees this spring? What varieties do you plan on tapping? When will you tap them/where do you live (latitude N or USDA zone is good)? What type of tap/catchment system are you using?
I am hoping to tap a few maple trees on conservation land in the next few weeks. I am still hesitant about identifying maples without their foliage. Any tips to increase my confidence?
I plan on getting a tap my trees spile from the local feed store and a galvanized bucket with lid other than one designed for maple tree tapping. I think I can rig up a regular bucket to work instead of spending twice as much as the one designed for tapping trees. Has anyone done that or am I better off spending more on the name brand one? For now I will only do one or two trees until I think I know what I'm doing and identifying the right trees.
Also is there a legal and lasting way to mark trees on public land for future tapping? I would love to have marked some maple trees when I was out hunting this fall and they still had leaves. Now I'm just going off of memory as to which ones I wanted to tap.
 
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We are tapping now.  The silver and soft maple are running good.  The sugar maples are a little slow right now.  Its hard for me to explain how to spot a maple.  All three maples we tap have different bark. My best advice is to look for the spinners/helicopters left around the trees.  When we tap them we taste the sap before adding it to the boiler.  If it is not sweet we don't use it.  If it gets too warm it will get a sour taste.
 
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We are out working on the tap lines today. We use tubing and buckets (depending on the trees). Tubes go to a large storage container at the bottom of the hill and we have a sugar shack that we cook it down in (just a woodshed with a wood fire powered evaporator).

Bark would be your best bet for identifying at this time of year although its true that it will look different depending on the age of the tree too.
 
Christopher Shepherd
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We typically try to get food grade buckets and barrels from the local food industry.  We like to keep it as cheap as possible. Dairy queen and Smuckers has given us a bunch of food grade containers.  The sap will start to sour if it sits much more than a couple days here in 35-45 deg days,  Boiling it off becomes our biggest issue with 25 taps.  So we built a little sugar shack that we have 2 boilers.  
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Gail Jardin
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I'm enjoying the responses on here! I have seen tapping and syrup production at workshops but this will be my first go at it alone. I am a bit hesitant still about being sure it is a maple tree. Does the sap actually smell enough like maple syrup to be sure it's the right type of tree? Would it be better to try to find someone who knows where a maple tree is on their  property than to risk tapping and sipping the sap of a different type of tree? So much of what I've learnt about foraging and harvesting herbs and mushrooms is to not do it if you do not have 100% confidence in the species you are identifying. Does that not apply to tapping trees too?
 
Christopher Shepherd
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What we call sugar maple.
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Christopher Shepherd
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What we call soft maple.
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Christopher Shepherd
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What we call silver maple.
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Gail Jardin wrote:Who plans on tapping trees this spring?



I am!

What varieties do you plan on tapping?



Sugar Maple (we have Red/Freeman as well but not bothering with those).

When will you tap them/where do you live (latitude N or USDA zone is good)?



I'm probably going to wait until the first week of March. Some people have already started tapping around here, but I only have a few trees and I don't want to start until I've got something to collect pretty much everyday. (N Lat is 44, zone 4b)

What type of tap/catchment system are you using?



Using spigots and buckets that I inherited.

I am hoping to tap a few maple trees on conservation land in the next few weeks. I am still hesitant about identifying maples without their foliage. Any tips to increase my confidence?



Ha, nope. I'm not great at identification in the winter either. All of our trees we marked in the early fall.

I'm enjoying the responses on here! I have seen tapping and syrup production at workshops but this will be my first go at it alone. I am a bit hesitant still about being sure it is a maple tree. Does the sap actually smell enough like maple syrup to be sure it's the right type of tree? Would it be better to try to find someone who knows where a maple tree is on their  property than to risk tapping and sipping the sap of a different type of tree? So much of what I've learnt about foraging and harvesting herbs and mushrooms is to not do it if you do not have 100% confidence in the species you are identifying. Does that not apply to tapping trees too?



You'll get better responses then mine, but as far as I know you'd be fine taping pretty much any tree. However, I have tasted Birch syrup and I am not a fan :p. My worry with tapping the wrong tree would be "contaminating" what would otherwise be really delicious maple syrup. Plus different tree saps have different boiling down ratios.

Good luck Gail! I really love maple syrup season because it feels like a reward for making it through winter lol.  
 
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you can tap all kinds of maple, i wouldnt be worried about getting the wrong kind. in the west people have been tapping the Big Leaf Maples that grow there...but it is trickier to figure out with the weather out there.

anywho i have been curious to try this someday. i would try the freeze method, cause its a time and energy saver...especially if you live in a very cold place where nature provides a free freezer.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/how-to-make-maple-syrup-at-home-zmaz74zhol

more ---> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh02vgI19i4
 
Christopher Shepherd
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Leila, I find it interesting that freezing is a good method to reduce water content.  Ours freezes all of the time and is usually solid in a day or two. Some days we chip and boil. We have 2 sugar maples that always crack from the fall monsanto's winds.  They drip this time of year and make us nice sweet popsicles to eat while collecting and boiling sap.  They are sweet clear through.  I had one last night.  I wonder why it is different in a bucket?  It sure would be nice to freeze for us.  If I get overloaded with sap I want to try this out and test it.  Has anybody else done this?
 
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the weather's been only intermittently good for it, but we have a couple of red maples and four big black walnuts tapped. the maples stopped running maybe a week ago, and the pure walnut syrup i've made since (tiny amounts) has been super tasty.

there's a sweet birch on the north-facing hillside that runs a bit later, i'll probably be tapping that in a few weeks.
 
leila hamaya
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yum maple sap popsicles sounds super good =).

black walnut syrup sounds interesting. i wonder if it has some of its medicinal qualities that way?


and yeah the freezing method really seems like the way to go. it appeals to me with it's simplicity and low tech/low energy use. this is also an old school simple way to refine a home brew alcohol...like with hard cider...that was sometimes done to make it much stronger.

basically you just freeze it solid and keeping removing whatever stays in the chunk of ice after melting for a while...the good sugary maple stuff melts off and the chunck of ice is mostly water.
that slightly maple flavored water could be useful for something else...maybe a house animal or otherwise would enjoy it... or back to maple popsicles =)
 
Nicky McGrath
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I just wanted to add that we tapped the trees yesterday!

I only have 8 trees, but I was out after sundown tonight, collecting sap and got almost 40L.

It's a lot of walking, the system isn't particularly efficient, but I love it anyway. Making your own sugar (liquid or otherwise) is great :).
Hopefully our little homemade evaporator still works well this season.
Here's an old photo:

 
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I'm still 5 or 6 weeks out from tapping.  I will be tapping birch in late April.  I am at almost 60° north.
 
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Here in northwest Florida I tap swamp maples and river birch (Betula nigra). River birch, also called black birch, is all over the river swamp here and the sap flows fast in the spring.
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