Many people don’t realize that maples are not the only trees with delicious edible sap. But sycamores are a great option if you don’t have a maple tree and want to make your own syrup or simply want to experience a different flavor profile. Tapping trees for water and sap is also a fantastic survival skill to learn. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of making sycamore syrup, including how to extract the sap.
What You'll Learn Today
Can You Make Sycamore Syrup?
Tapping trees for sap and making syrup is a practice that has been done for centuries. Many trees produce sap that can be turned into syrup, including sycamores.
If you have a sycamore tree on your property, gathering sap and making syrup is a great activity, especially with kids. Tree sap starts to rise in trees in late winter to early spring when the temperatures are warmer during the day but still freezing at night.
If you don’t know whether you have sycamores on your property, here’s how you can identify them:
- Mature trees have gray trunks with bark patches that peel off in large, thin sheets to reveal new white-ish bark. As they get older, only the higher branches and trunk areas are white, while the bottom is darker brown to gray.
- Sycamores are very tall – many reach over 100 feet once they are mature.
- Sycamore leaves are often mistaken for maple leaves due to their similarity in shape.
- Sycamores are commonly found in wetlands along streams and rivers.
- Depending on the species, you can find sycamore trees anywhere from zones 4-9 in the United States, covering much of the eastern states.
- Sycamore seed pods look like brown balls that hang from the tree’s twigs.
What Does Sycamore Sap Taste Like?
Sycamore syrup is not the first choice of many people who tap their own sap. Many people describe the taste as somewhat burnt, while others enjoy this quality.
For instance, the sap has a lower sugar content than that of maple trees, which accounts for the bitter taste. However, when sycamore is mixed with other types of sap, it can bring out a tasty butterscotch flavor.
How Do You Make Sycamore Tree Syrup?
To make syrup from a sycamore, you’ll need to find your source first. Check with friends or family if you don’t have a sycamore tree on your property.
If no one you know has a sycamore tree, you can always check with other landowners in your area and see if you can get permission to tap their tree. You’ll have a better chance at a positive response if you offer them some syrup in return!
The ideal tree to use will have a larger diameter – ideally at least 12 feet wide. Here’s how the tapping process works:
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
You will need the following:
Container for sap (2-liter soda bottles work well)
- A tube that fits in the opening of your collection container
- A drill to make a hole in the tree, along with a drill bit that matches the size of your pipe
- A dowel of some sort to plug the hole in the tree once you’re done collecting sap
Step 2: Test a Small Area
To make sure the sap is rising, you can use the point of your drill to poke past the bark of the trunk about 3 feet up from the ground. Wiggle the drill around to loosen the wood and wait about a minute to see if a droplet of sap appears.
If no sap is present, you may have to wait a few days to a week and try again.
Step 3: Drill Your Hole
Use the same hole you made to drill about 40-60mm into the tree at a slight upward angle. Be sure to clear out any loose wood shavings from the hole.
Step 4: Collect the Sap
Once you make your hole, the sap should flow freely within just a few seconds. Now you can stick one end of your tube into the hole and the other into the bottle to collect the sap.
Sycamore sap flows relatively slowly, but it also depends on the age and health of the tree. It could take up to a whole day to fill a 2-liter bottle.
Step 5: Plug the Hole
Insert your dowel into the tree to plug the hole. Make sure it fits correctly and entirely stops the sap from leaking out.
Step 6: Make Syrup
Turning sap into syrup is as simple as boiling it for a few hours until it reaches the proper syrup-like consistency. Happy tasting!
The process of tapping a sycamore tree is generally the same as with many other trees. To see how one YouTuber tapped a maple tree and made syrup, check out this video:
Tapping a tree and extracting a resource like syrup or water is an experience that brings you closer to nature and takes your survival skills to a whole new level – especially when it’s a less commonly used tree such as sycamore.
Trees give us so much, and it can be gratifying to take advantage of what they provide.