hist-brewing: Re: The Birch Tree

Cindy M. Renfrow cindy at thousandeggs.com
Sun Feb 25 06:40:52 PST 2001

In reply to several posts,

There are about 35 species of Betula (Birch) in the US & Canada.

There are two birches known as the Sweet Birches:

Betula lenta (Cherry, Black, or Sweet Birch) is used commercially to
produce aromatic oil of wintergreen.  It resembles a cherry tree and
produces abundant sweet sap.

Betula lutea (Yellow or Gray Birch) also produces sweet sap, and has a
wintergreen scent.  It looks vaguely like a paper birch, but the bark is
more yellow and shaggy.

OTOH, Betula nigra (River, Red, or Black Birch) does not smell of wintergreen.

All species of Betula have edible sap.  The difference lies in the flavor
and sweetness.

Alan Hall, in "The Wild Food Trailguide" says birch sap has half the sugar
of maple sap.  "Birch beer can but made by combining sap with sugar or
honey, boiling for about an hour, cooling, and adding yeast.  Another
method is to steep young twigs of the Sweet Birches in boiling water, add
sugar (3 pounds to 5 gallons of liquid), cool, and add yeast."

Betula glasa isn't in my (non-comprehensive) key.

Regarding maple sap, Peterson's field guide says "Although the sugar
content varies from species to species, and even tree to tree, all maples
produce excellent syrup."


Cindy Renfrow
cindy at thousandeggs.com
Author & Publisher of "Take a Thousand Eggs or More, A Collection of 15th
Century Recipes" and "A Sip Through Time, A Collection of Old Brewing

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