We love collecting wild foods in the city. One thing our little house with it’s 20 by 60 foot property does not afford us, though, are maple trees.
Fortunately we have friends with land that live nearby and this year they have invited us to tap their trees to collect maple sap and make syrup! We are so grateful and super excited!
We got up bright and early this morning and collected some sticks from staghorn sumac trees. The hole in the tree will be 1/2 inch diameter, so we tried to find sticks that were just a little bigger. Sumac trees have a soft pith inside which is easy to push out with metal coat hanger. Then we widdled one end down to less than 1/2 inch, this is the side we will hammer into the tree (after drilling a 1/2″ diameter hole about 2-3 inches into the tree, see our next post which tells exactly what we did.)
This is how a staghorn sumac looks during the summer, just in case you are wondering which tree I am talking about:
Now there are no leaves, but the old red berry clusters are still on them, which makes them very easy to identify. The staghorn sumac has velvety branches, but you can use any red berried sumac. Poisonous sumac has white berries, so as long as you see trees with clusters of these red berries (which may not be as vibrant red now, but they will still look red) you have the right tree to use. I believe elderberry trees also have a soft pith that can be pushed out, so if you happen to know of an elderberry tree you can use those instead.
We put 11 spiles into 8 trees and have been collecting sap and boiling it down into syrup for 3 days now! We’ve made delicious maple syrup and delectible maple candies. I’ll share more later…with pictures and maybe even a video or two!
Enjoy mud season! It’s also maple syrup season!
~ Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot