Birch trees start pollinating around now, and Rupert our founder and chief forager talks about this species, which has a special meaning for us at Buck and Birch.
Imagine harnessing nanotechnology and building a pioneering machine that - out of thin air - could conjure up food and drink plus other useful, sustainable materials. It would need to be solar powered of course, have battery storage capacity and be sited outdoors. It would have anti-gravity water transportation systems, a self anchoring mechanism and the ability to colonise new lands. Add in a killer design brief that makes it picturesque, statuesque and strong and you would have something that could probably only be described as … a tree.
Illustrated by co founder Tom Chisholm 2020
Like other trees, the Birch has been doing all this and more, for millions of years. Throw them some meagre nutrients, photons and water, and they will turn out self replicating units, that help make soil and turn sunshine into copper, silver and gold.
It’s a tree with a long history of veneration in many cultures. Everything from cloaks and canoes to syrups and shoes have been made from the first “Lady of the Forest”. Original yule log, medicine maker and ancient sign of authority, renewal and protection, Birch is our friend.
At Buck and Birch we definitely love a bit of it and we have made a great deal from her offerings over the years. We even waited for the rising of the sap as the cue to begin our journey 8 years ago, falling into the slip stream of the seasonal rhythm. It seemed like the very proper place to begin. There, at our first dinner, we served a birch sap and elderflower fizz as a welcome drink; had pure fresh sap as table water, and syrup made by reducing that sap as accompaniment to scallops. We also cooked it into a salted caramel served on birch twigs on a birch log, as the finale. It set a tradition of serving it first and last at all our events. It never fails to deliver.
To tap the sap you do need to do a bit of research. It needn't be as harmful as some make out and it is always worth it. With anything like this - sustainability is the key.
Birch sap in its pure form is sterile and crystal clear. It is made up of roughly 99% water and 1% sugars and minerals. Tapping it though is 100% pure alchemical enchantment . It is mercurial witch craft, magic and sorcery and, as such, should be done by everyone at least once in their lives. But every year if possible . Saluting the return of the Sun King at 6 am on a March morning with a glass of pure , ice cold sap is The way to get ready for another circuit around his realm.
I still remember the first time I tapped a tree ten years ago. I knew what to expect but, it was still thrilling to see this pure clear flow from an otherwise dormant woodland. It is a glimpse into a hidden world. A sign that out front , while you could hear a pin drop , backstage Mother natures troupe are all dashing about , frantically working to put on a show that is as timely as it is timeless and always spectacular.
I’ve read a few papers on the science of it but wont bore you with too much of the xylem and phloem of it all. All you really need to know is that tuned in acutely to signals from their great fire God , the tree people of the North stir from their sleep in late winter/ early spring and summon up their underground energy stores. These they use to unfurl their solar apparatus, making them dance and shimmer in the breeze again.
To honour the Birch we created Ana, a birch syrup caramel liqueur.
With over a litre of sap in each bottle, we reduce it down to a fraction of its volume till it becomes a dark, almost savoury syrup. Added to spirit and clarified by the magic of fairies, it is reborn into a pure, clear liquid. Bright with the gold of the sun and fit for its Goddess namesake.
We love birch.
So much so that we want a whole forest of them. It has so much to offer. Indeed by honouring and valuing the trees, we would hope to see more of them. Great big pioneering forests of them all partying and self replicating and dancing in the sun.
What a wonderful thought.
With their help, we’ll supply the drinks…. Cheers!
Ana is available from selected retailers or online at our web shop