The company Holt og heidar in east Iceland, which sells food products such as frozen wild mushrooms and rhubarb jam with Iceland moss and vanilla, has now begun producing birch sap and birch syrup. This is the first time that birch sap is used for such purposes in Iceland.
Icelandic birch and a birch bolete. Holt og heidar sells wild mushrooms and birch syrup, among other prodcuts. Photo by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
Birch syrup is produced the same way as maple syrup—birch and maple are in fact the only tree species that grow in northern districts that can be used for syrup production, Morgunbladid reports.
Birch sap is rich of minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates. It contains less sugar than maple sap and is considered healthier. Birch sap is said to suppress pollen allergies and have a positive effect on skin, hair and nails.
“We had carried this idea around for a long time,” said horticulturalist Bergrún Arna Thorsteinsdóttir, who runs Holt og heidar with Gudný Vésteinsdóttir and Thórólfur Sigurjónsson, who is a cook.
Thorsteinsdóttir and Vésteinsdóttir participated in the project Vaxtasprotinn held by Impra at the Innovation Center Iceland and were awarded for their company.
In Finland people have collected birch sap for some time for export to Japan and Korea where people believe it to be rejuvenating and possess aphrodisiac qualities. “Birch sap cures all ailments,” she stated.
Birch sap is extracted in the spring by drilling a hole into the stem of larger trees. A tap is put into the hole and the sap is collected in containers for five days. The hole is then sealed with a wooden cork.
Each birch tree can produce one to six liters of sap in 24 hours but no more than a total of 40-60 liters are taken from each tree. The trees have to rest for a few years before sap can be extracted from them again.
Last spring, Holt og heidar extracted sap from 60 birch trees in Hallormsstadur forest. For each liter of pure birch syrup, 100-120 liters of sap is required.