The gift of late late February-March, depending on the year, amidst the cold blowy nights interspersed with cool sloppy days, is maple water. For me, this is the first outdoor harvest of the new year, and lets me know spring really is making an effort to arrive. Canada seems to be leading the way in the scientific research to back health claims by those who are now packaging and selling this beverage, sometimes known as Vertical Water, in health food stores. Researchers have discovered over 40 bio-active compounds in maple water, as well as more antioxidants than many veges. You can read more here:
I prefer to save money and get my maple water the old fashioned way, by tapping my own trees. Maple are not the only trees for tapping. Birch and Walnut may also be used, they are just not as sweet. Of the maples, the sugar maple is the sweetest. The trees should be at least 12″ in diameter for one tap, 21-27″ for two taps, and greater than 27″ for three taps.For about a three or four dollar investment in a spile from a feed or hardware store; some wire strong enough to support a full gallon water jug, but flexible enough to twist; and a clean empty jug or pail, you will receive literally gallons of one of Mother Nature’s sweetest gifts.
The sap runs best when nights are below freezing and days are above freezing.This usually happens for 2-3 weeks in March, but this year has been moved up to February in northern Michigan.
1. Drill a 3/8″ hole 1-2 inches deep into the tree on a very slight upward angle.
2. Pound in the spile.
3. Secure a pail or bucket to the spile using wire. Experiment a bit to find the technique that suits you best. If you use a bucket, you may want to put a screen over it to keep out excess debris and bugs.
4. Pour the liquid into a clean jar and strain to remove anything that may have fallen in. When the sap is running well, I can easily get 2-4 gallons a day of pure refreshment!
Now what? Drinking it cold and fresh from the tree ranks right up there, but there are many other ways to enjoy this delicious drink. It doesn’t last long, maybe three days, before it begins to turn. Luckily it freezes well, so you can enjoy it for at least six months, or until you run out!
- Add lemon juice for a slightly sweet lemonade
- Add a cup of maple water to your favorite green smoothie
- Freeze it in ice cube trays and plop it into iced tea in the summer
- Freeze in one cup containers for a whole pitcher of iced tea to share with your friends and neighbors
- You could always boil it and make actual maple syrup!