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We have a couple of questions about the legality of and how to tap trees to get sap. Tree sap is the source of sugary syrups like Maple or Sycamore. The sap can then be evaporated over a fire to leave a high sugar syrup (i.e. Maple Syrup).

While the process is not complex, it takes a lot of time and a lot of sap. If you want a cup (8 fluid ounces, 0.25 liters) you would need 40+ cups of sap (2.5 US gallons, 10 Liters). Additionally for Maple and maybe other trees as well, the sap is best for making syrup during certain times of the year, where particular weather patterns are occurring.

Assuming you have packed all the required implements with you, if you stop to camp for the night, could you tap a tree (or three) as you are setting up camp, and produce syrup for breakfast, before hitting the trail again?

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  • I think the evaporation takes time, and the last step of it need to be carefully supervised, in order to avoid burning it. – njzk2 Oct 7 '16 at 17:13
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    I live in hardcore maple syrup country and tap many trees each spring. I have never seen the sap run at night. Maples only run when it goes below freezing at night and it's sunny and above freezing during the day; if it's warm enough at night to run you don't want to eat syrup made from that sap. I don't know about sycamore. – Stephen M. Webb Oct 8 '16 at 0:01
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Using some numbers from Cornell's Extension program: 10 gallons of sap per tap in a season is reasonable. The length of a season varies- Let's say it's 90 days. The sugar concentration, which influences how much syrup you get from a given volume of sap, varies. Let's assume 2%, which means you need 43 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup.

So three taps would get you 30 gallons of sap in a season. But you're there for a night, or 1/180th of a season, so you get .167 gallons of sap. After a day or so of processing, you could get .00388 gallons of syrup, or 1/2 of a fluid ounce. That's a tablespoon, which is the recommended serving size by the USDA.

Carrying a bottle of syrup would take up less space than the taps and processing equipment, so it is not practical.

If sap only flows from taps during the daylight hours when temperatures are high (which is supported by point 14 in the Cornell link), then you will get no syrup at all by tapping trees overnight.

  • There is an interesting comment by Stephen M. Webbunder under my question that is partially supported by #14 in your linked reference. suggesting your answer may be overly optimistic. – James Jenkins Oct 8 '16 at 10:07
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    I agree- his personal experience is more relevant than my naïve skimming of Cornell's info. "The sap doesn't run at night" changes the .167 gallons to 0. – jejorda2 Oct 10 '16 at 12:29
  • I will tell you from experience that you should also note that your figures are making an estimate of average yield. The yield can vary highly from day to day. Today you might get twice the average daily yield, and tomorrow you might get none. So this source is very unreliable. When I used to help my father make syrup, sometimes we would go a few days with only the slightest drip, then the weather would change for optimal yield and we would get a lot again. – Loduwijk Sep 23 '17 at 13:39

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