Paddy of Hunt, Forage, Harvest shares his experience

I came across this lovely blog from PaddyHalligan who blogs about his and his familys’ “attempts to live a little more self-sufficiently…”
Having tasted Birch sap at the Maccreddin Wild Food Dinner last year (delish!)I can highly recommend it. Obviously it is important to know what your doing and to treat the trees with respect.
Over to Paddy:


A “tapped” birch - photo courtesy of
A “tapped” birch – photo courtesy of

It must be understood that birch sap can only be collected for a very short period of the year, usually somewhere in the first three weeks of March. In the lead up to this time, I’ll test whether the sap is running by gently driving the tip of my penknife into the trunk of any birch I happen to pass. If sap quickly runs down the blade, I know the time has come to collect.
There’s something wonderfully satisfying about successfully tapping a birch tree. Using a drill with a wood bit (I use a manual hand drill), make a small hole in the bark of the birch, at a slight upward angle. (Please note that the tree should have a diameter of at least a foot). The hole needn’t be deep, a centimetre or so is all that’s required. Sap should start to seep out of the hole quite quickly. At this point, the apparatus that is being used to collect the sap is attached.
With the spile hammered snugly into the hole, the sap runs down it. A piece of plastic tubing is then attached to the end of the spile, which is in turn attached to a plastic bottle, and the machine is left for a day to collect sap. On average, two litres of sap can be collected from a typical tree in twenty-four hours.

To view images of the tools Paddy used and more about his journey visit