Ag report: Tapping trees, but not maple

Ag report: Tapping trees, but not maple
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 7:06 AM EDT
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LAKE PLACID, New York (WWNY) - We know that the maple industry is huge in the north country, but maple season doesn’t last very long and is entirely weather dependent.

So, researchers are looking at other trees to tap.

At the Uihlein Maple Research Forest in Lake Placid, forest director Adam Wild has found a new source of syrup: beech trees.

“Part of what we do at Cornell University in our maple program is doing research to help grow the maple industry,” he said, “and help landowners looking at other resources in our native ecosystems we can utilize.”

Beech trees don’t have a ton of use. They’re considered a nuisance by some, so researchers wanted to put them to use and they’ve never been studied for their sap.

“We look at tapping beech trees as kind of an open world with no knowledge out there,” Wild said, “so it’s exciting to do research when there’s nothing to build off of.”

Beech trees don’t need the same freeze-thaw conditions that maple trees do to pull sap. But they do need a suction system.

“The sap is coming from our spout to our drop line tube to this chamber, which is under vacuum,” Wild said.

The sap has less sugar, meaning it boils down to less syrup, but “one of the most exciting things we’ve learned is that within these trees, you can get the same amount of sap on a similar sized beech tree as you can with a maple,” Wild said.

Beech trees are also highly resilient to the taps themselves.

“We’re looking at the growth rate and finding that the trees are healing over, the tap holes were closing up,” Wild said. “More than 75% of the trees were healing after just one growing season.”

But the important thing is: how does it taste?

“A little like raisins,” Wild said, “slightly fruity but not tart, nice and sweet.”