This we discovered in Finland, and the practice was later affirmed in Sweden: in an Arctic tradition dating back centuries, it’s possible to collect literally LITRES of sap from birch trees, during the first month or so of spring (when the trees “unfreeze” at the end of winter, and start to take up water from the soil). The sap is packed with vitamin C, has excellent medicinal properties and is absolutely delicious! Plus, once collected it’s simply drunk in the same way as water, i.e. with meals or generally to quench the thirst, and can be refrigerated for weeks.
Method 1 (not preferred): make a hole about 1cm in diameter, going to a depth of about 3cm. Insert a small length of pipe to fit the hole, and attach a vessel beneath the pipe to collect the sap as it leaks out of the tree over a few days. There should be no more than ONE hole per tree per year. When no more sap drips into the collector, plug the hole with a cork or similar, making sure it’s completely leaktight and no more sap can escape that way over subsequent weeks and months – you don’t want the tree’s life blood just ebbing away!
Micke was amazed that we were so interested in this old tradition that has been an unremarkable part of his life for nearly six decades... but we were fascinated! The idea was utterly new to me. And like many other examples of wild food gathering, it’s an example of how ecology and economy can go hand in hand. Nature can give and keep on giving, century after century, if we humans act gently and know when and how to take only as much as one person or family needs – no more – while also respecting what the plant needs in order to thrive for many years.