Everyone knows you can tap maple trees, boil down the sap and make maple syrup. Maple syrup on pancakes is a classic American breakfast. However, few people know that the same is true for other select species of trees. People in the sub-artic have for years tapped birch trees, both boiling the sap to make a sweet syrup and consuming it raw as a health drink. Walnut trees are on that list of those select other species. Members of the Juglans genus, black walnut (Juglans nigra), white walnut or butternut (J. cinerea) and English walnut (J. regia) have all been tapped for syrup production. This walnut syrup primer will get you on either the commercial or the hobbyist path.
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What I am proposing in this article is that woodland owners consider sap and syrup production as a way to increase the financial benefits derived from their forest resource by tapping their trees, and increase the fun in owning a woodlot with a good “sugarin off” party.
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is a tree to consider tapping, and Butternut (Juglans cinerea) has similar characteristics and can produce syrup. When considering tapping, however, it is good to understood that walnut trees and not just maples with compound leaves and big edible nuts. Walnuts have anatomical and physiological characteristics that affect tapping and syrup making.
Videos from the Future Generations University maple program.
The first part of this book is a set of guidelines that follow the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Sugaring Operations Inspection Checklist. The checklist is what is on the clipboard of the state compliance officer should you ever get or need a WVDA review certificate. The second part of this book presents a Decision Tree and Regulatory Matrix that you can follow to help you comply with state and federal regulation that apply to your production and sale of maple syrup.
Aaron Wilson, an atmospheric research scientist, discusses the risks climate change poses to maple syrup production.
Tapping walnut trees for sap collection and syrup production provides a syrup producer the opportunity to tap into the new, growing, and potentially lucrative specialty tree syrup market. The bulk price for walnut syrup in West Virginia this past season ranged from $150-$250/gallon, with retail sale prices topping $500/gallon (Tonoloway Farm, 2020). To get there, potential walnut syrup producers need to know how and when to tap their trees to maximize sap production. During the 2020 sap flow season, Future Generations University, with a grant from the NE SARE program, conducted studies looking at the application of vacuum, spout design, tapping procedures, and the timing of sap flow in walnut trees. This paper presents part of the findings of that work.
During the 2019 sap season, Future Generations University, with funding from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, began a series of tapping studies on tree species other than maple. We tapped and made syrup from black walnut trees. We had trouble developing the expected natural vacuum on the 3/16-inch lines, even though they had plenty of slope. We assumed that the problem was related to vacuum leaks associated with a poor seal in the soft wood with the minimally tapered spouts.
Our objective in this 2020 study was to revisit walnut tree sap flow and to determine whether vacuum applied to sap collection lines would substantially increase the production of walnut sap. Along the way, we made some somewhat startling and troublesome observations and formulated a next generation of questions that need to be answered to allow a viable walnut syrup industry to develop.
A handbook for beginning sugarmakers, covering the basics of tree identification, sap collection, boiling, and more.