Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Adirondack Researchers Explore Birch Syrup Production

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted the results of a project exploring opportunities for regional maple sugarmakers to produce birch syrup.

Four sugarhouses participated in the 2015-2016 birch syrup project; one each in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Jefferson counties.

Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center Maple Program transported the sap collected from 61 paper birch trees there 20 miles to the Uihlein Forest sugarhouse for processing.

Project leader Michael L. Farrell noted that the trial at Paul Smith’s also produced conclusive evidence that using 5/16-inch spouts will provide significantly more sap than 3/16-inch spouts.

In Ellenburg Center, Brandy Brook Maple Farm owner Joy Herfurth tapped 40 white and yellow birch trees and gathered data on sugar content and sap volume. She made about two gallons of birch syrup. A half-gallon sold for $80.

For now, producing birch syrup is on hold at Brandy Brook Maple Farm which has 10,000 maple taps and has opened a new maple-influenced winery, but Herfurth says if birch syrup catches on with consumers, specialty food stores, and restaurants to build market demand she will consider tapping the 150 or so birch trees she has in the future.

The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a research and technical assistance program serving Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. For more information, visit their website.

Photo: Birch Lines, courtesy Joy Herfurth.

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2 Responses

  1. M. Susan Earle says:

    What does birch syrup taste like? Is it really strong?

  2. It is good to hear a local sugarbush may actually be offering birch syrup. It is about time. In Korea, Russia and most of the Scandinavian nations, birch saphas historically been a favorite drink. It comes for a tree that’s known as “good for the bones” which is the result of the high calcium content that’s found in the sap. Birch sap is the key component of traditional ritual that requires bathing in a sauna to sweat out the “bad medicine” and replace it with birch sap, a good medicine. I’ve tasted birch syrup, which was slightly bitter, and not as sweet as maple. Birch sap does not have the sugar content of maple, but I assume the health benefits are more important than the sweetness. Birch is also the the primary host for chaga mushrooms, which are also known to provide a wide variety of medicinal benefits. In fact, there is now a small company in Tupper Lake that processes and sells chaga tea.
    Drink a cup of chaga tea, that’s been steeped in birch sap and sweetened with maple syrup and you’ll grow young gracefully in good health and humor. Best of all, the ingredients are likely to be available in your own back yard. If you are too lazy to do the grunt work, contact the Birch Boys Adk Chaga at They are sell the products via E mail-order. The principal chugga boy is a local outdoor enthusiast who learned the way of the woods from his parents and his grandfather Jon Kopp, who is a retired DEC Wildlife biologist and the current town historian. Good people with good products. Birch sap may soon be the all-natural alternative to Monster, Gatorade and other such sugary drinks. .

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