May 13, 2010
“Sap begins to run when nights are still cold enough to form “sapsicles ” from the spouts. Only the water in the sap freezes; the tree sugars remain as a syrupy coating. Evan Humphrey, the original Birch Boy, tastes one.”
photo courtesy of Birchboy Gourmet Birch Syrup
Spring has been TRYING to arrive in our area of Alaska, until the past two to three days. After days of sun, low wind and day time temperatures well above freezing, our river broke out, ground was thawing and things looked to be heading in the right direction.
Then came the last few days when temperatures dipped into the 20s during the day, freezing rain and blowing snow arrived and projects we thought we might get a jump on are stalled.
During the these warmer days I was torn between getting much needed inside things done and wanting to be working in the garden.
I had a post about ready on some research that seemed to show that fish was a very digestible protein for humans, but wanted to check some details. Let me just say that is has been one of the biggest run arounds and I am still chasing it. I will get it to you but at this time I need to head into other things that have been planned.
As you know if you follow our blog, I attended Alaska’s Sustainable Agriculture conference in Fairbanks. We talked a lot about having the opportunity for remote areas to produce more of their own food, among other sustainable agriculture issues.
Something that is new to me is the Birch Syrup industry here in Alaska. From what I have been able to find there are a few Alaskan producers who seem to be doing a growing business. In talking to producers, expenses are still high and the public is also on a big learning curve to actually go looking for the product.
One producer is in Haines, Birchboy:Gourmet Birch Syrup , and two others are in the Mat-Su area: Alaska Birch Syrup Co and Kahiltna Birchworks .
I had heard a tad bit about them in general conversation at the conference and then came across a write up in the ADN recently.
The industry seems to be similar in a number of ways to the famous Maple Syrup industry of the NE, BUT rarer! The trees are still tapped but instead of producing 1 gal of syrup for every 40 gal of sap as is average in the Maple industry, it is 1 gal for 100 gallons of sap. Only about 10%-15% of the sap is taken each year so it allows this to easily be a sustainable process for the trees.
Numbers like tapping 5,700 trees by just one Alaskan company helps to understand that demand for the product is growing.
Everything I have read show these to be a labor intensive small family owned operations. Many of them more rural than urban.
Beyond something to go over your ice cream or pancakes, Birch syrup is being used in all sorts of other products. Things like marinades, barbeque sauces, baked beans, coffee, breads, sodas and ice cream.
I got to thinking of a marinade for that fresh salmon we should be getting soon? How about then smoking the salmon? I don’t know about you but my head gets to spinning about all the possibilities!!
There are some recipes on one site that will get you going along these lines too.
But back to sustainable, local, and something we can participate in to help local Alaskans, the tiny industry was summed up well by one birch syrup company owner…
“It’s development, but on a small-scale,” Dulce Ben-East said. “I love the local movement. It’s so much a part of how I like doing things. Being a part of that is great.”