There are many trees other than a Maple tree that can be tapped for their sap to make syrup. The two most popular maple alternatives are the Black Walnut and Paper Birch trees. These trees are tapped and their sap is processed in a very similar manner to maple sap.
Tapping Black Walnut Trees
This tree produces an earthy and robust flavored syrup which is quite unique and yet not so different from the taste of maple syrup; it is also used as a topping on pancakes. The ratio of sap to syrup production is also about the same as a maple (i.e. 1 gallon of syrup produced for every 40 gallons of sap). This is a high ratio when producing syrup, but the Black Walnut Tree does not produce nearly as much sap as a Maple tree. So, it takes a lot more time and labor to produce a comparable amount of syrup. This causes the price of black walnut syrup to be much higher than maple syrup. But, this shouldn’t stop you from tapping the Black Walnut trees in your backyard, so you can get that “earthy” and “robust” flavored syrup all for yourself.
Tapping Birch Trees
The most popular tree to tap for syrup, other than maple, is the Paper Birch. Syrup from this tree is primarily produced in Russia, Alaska and Canada. Alaska actually has a thriving birch syrup industry, but it still doesn’t come close to producing as much as the maple syrup industry. This is partially due to birch sap being much lower in sugar content; the sap to syrup ratio for birch trees is 100 to 1! It is far more labor intensive to produce birch syrup; driving up the cost 5 to 1 in comparison to maple syrup.
That being said, tapping birch trees for syrup remains popular due to its health benefits and its variety of uses. It is considered a natural health product because it is thought to have anti-rheumatic qualities and be far easier for the human body to digest than maple syrup. Birch syrup is also high in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, amino acids, potassium, calcium and zinc, just to name a few.
The taste of birch syrup is definitely a bit different than maple syrup. It has been described as a mixture of molasses and apple juice and it is not typically used as a topping on pancakes. Instead, it is enjoyed as a variety of marinades, dressings and flavoring in ice cream, milk shakes, natural sodas, beer, wine, baked goods and more! This syrup might be harder to come by, but it seems to make almost anything taste great!
Just like the black walnut syrup, birch syrup might be hard to find in the grocery store, but it may very well be available in your own backyard. So, keep an open mind when looking for potential trees to tap. You may have access to a rare delicacy that the whole family will enjoy!