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Posted on Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 12:01 p.m.

Wildcrafting on Twitter - Plan now to tap trees in February and March

By Linda Diane Feldt

I have a daily twitter on Wildcrafting. Here are the latest tweets, with a few expanded way beyond the 140 characters.

If you tap non-sugar maples they just have less sugar. Either boil longer, or enjoy the taste without as much sweet. I prefer it.


close maple.jpg
You can tap birch, sycamore, and the maples don't have to be sugar maples. But they are far easier to identify now than in Feb and March ***** Buckwheat blueberry pancakes with homemade maple syrup. Now is the time to ID maple trees so you can tap them in March. All maples work. *****

I started the day with blueberry buckwheat pancakes. I had some maple syrup from March that I had made and frozen. So that has me plotting for next year. This was my first time solo maple sugaring, and after a long cold winter it was a really fun foraging adventure. I had helped my dad tap some trees and boil and boil and boil almost 30 years ago. So it isn't a new thing, but I hadn't yet done it in the city.

With the help of a friend, I identified a few close maple trees, probably silver maples. It is hard to identify maples in the winter, except when the sap does start to run you can see it oozing and dripping from cracks in the trees.

I bought some taps from Downtown Home and Garden, and some plastic tubing from Stadium Hardware. I used plastic jugs, and for securing thigns duct tape, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. The jugs are more secure sitting on the ground, with the plastic tubing running to them. You can also run a few taps into one jug if you'd like.

I gathered about 30 gallons from one tree. I boiled most of the sap, 40 parts make 1 part maple syrup. The rest I drank straight, made bread and muffins (use sap in place of liquids) and my favorite - use straight sap to cook your oatmeal. No additional sweetener is needed!

I also froze a couple of gallons of sap to enjoy later. And I have been.

So go out now and find a couple maples, a couple birches, and a sycamore. They should be good sized healthy trees, the trunk at least 12-14 inches wide. For me, that is my two hands should stretch 1/2 way around the tree. You will need to ask permission to tap, either now or later. There is some question about tapping trees located between the sidewalk and street. During the slower time in December and January I'll try and get a city response to this question.

Write down where they are and mark your calendars. When the days are warm and the nights below freezing, the sap will begin and you too can be savoring your own syrup and sap next year.

My favorite Buckwheat Pancake Recipe is at the end of this blog.

***** Also saved from earlier --

Stinging Nettle was dried last May, no sting when dry. Dry by hanging, on screens, on trays, in an oven with a pilot, in the attic, many choices. ***** Using some dried Stinging Nettle as infusion, steeped 3 hours, jar with lid, lots of protein, iron, and calcium. 1 oz herb 1 qt boiled water ***** Infusions are essentially strong teas, or tissanes. The steeping time is longer so that the nutrients from the plant have a chance to pass into the water. The taste is also stronger. But it is another way to get benefits from the plants, other than eating them. Using a lid is important as many of the nutrients would otherwise go up with the steam. I use 1/2 gallon canning jars. Ace Hardware and Downtown Home and Garden are two great places to find them, but they may be out of stock some times during the year. I steep Nettles 3-8 hours depending on my patience. Then I strain them into another jar and refrigerate. Keeps 2-3 days.

***** I usually pass on eating milkweed so that the monarchs have plenty. Milkweed is toxic-maybe that means we should leave it for the monarchs ***** Milkweed buds are edible if toxins are removed by cooking with 3 changes of water. But the Monarch butterflies need them. And they are back! The buds that I passed on are now in fragrant flower. If you really love monarchs, consider becoming a certified Monarch Wayfaring Station. I did. ***** I'm puzzled by apricots. The two trees that were loaded last year appear to have nothing. Looking for a tree or two to pick as they ripen. I have this hope that perhaps this regular column will also be a way to find trees that need harvesters. And harvesters who need trees! Let me know if your fruit tree is producing without anyone to harvest it, and I'll try and find harvesters looking for trees. My top priorities are pears and apricots. It's too late for cherries. Let me know if you are interested. ***** I've been wanting to taste Mayapples for years. If I wait until they are ripe the deer take them. Unripe are toxic. The rest of the plant is poisonous. I found and picked some to ripen later. I'll let you know how this goes. The Latin name is Podophyllum peltatum, also called Mandrake. I'm planning on letting the fruit ripen to eat it, but it bears repeating. All the other parts of the plant are poisonous, and the fruit is toxic when unripe. The information on Mandrake from the Harry Potter books? Well, it isn't like that here in Ann Arbor at least. ***** The storms have knocked some nuts from hickory trees. But they aren't really ready yet. Pass. *****

I'd like to regularly pass on the latest twitters. I'd also like to expand on some as I did today. If you have ideas for making this less confusing, or suggested formatting, please let me know.

And now for the recipe -

Buckwheat Pancakes adapted from Laurel's Kitchen about 5-6 large pancakes

1 cup buckwheat flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder. Mix together. Add 1 egg, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup or more fruit (blueberries, black raspberries, mulberries, service berries, black berries, etc) Mix everything well without over beating

Heat a skillet medium or hotter, melt butter, pour in about 1/3 cup batter. Cook until bubbles form on surface, flip, cook another 30-60 seconds. I use fresh ground buckwheat flour, using my home mill. I also use raw milk and eggs straight from the farmer. Great ingredients make the difference! Combined with homemade butter and maple syrup or jam, it is a fabulous breakfast. But even with store bought ingredients, still a worthy meal. Takes about 10 minutes, including grinding the flour. Batter does not store, but leftover pancakes can be frozen.

Photos by Linda Diane Feldt A majestic Maple in The Big Playground, but not healthy enough to tap.


Linda Diane Feldt

Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.

Jennifer, I'm not a tree expert. But visually, a tree with dead branches, that seems to be struggling, or with obvious rot or hollowing of the trunk, needs to be left alone. An intact vibrant tree with lots of healthy growth now, and with sap oozing and dripping late winter will be a great tree to tap if it is old enough (large enough). Hope that helps. As for non sugar maples, I almost prefer them. You get more taste with less sweet, in my opinion, and I like that.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 1:38 p.m.

I had no idea you could tap non-sugar maples. We have a great maple in our backyard. How do you know if the tree is healthy enough? Also, Jennings Bros. sells wonderful stone ground buckwheat at the A2 Farmers Market.

Moms Kitchen

Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 1:15 p.m.

I am a harvester looking for trees....please let me know if you find anything locally. My email address is momskitchen at comcast {do}t net

Tammy Mayrend

Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 11:33 a.m.

We tapped tree this past spring - What a wonderful experience! We actually posted an ad on Craigslist requesting someone allow us to tap their trees and met a wonderful friend from the experience. We're still eating the fruits of our labor too, as we ended up with almost a gallon of Maple Syrup!