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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Non-maple Tree Syrup (for the Week of March 11, 2007)

March 5, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: I know maple syrup comes from maple tree sap. What other trees can you use to make syrup?

A. In cold northern places like Alaska and Scandinavia, people make syrup from birch tree sap.

In steamy southeast Asia, folks boil down syrup from palm tree sap.

In Washington state, a place where sugar maple trees (the famous type for making syrup) don't grow, a man uses sap from the trees in his woods, from alder to hickory to black walnut to butternut. He says each type makes tasty syrup.

(Though none of them taste like maple syrup. And all of them take more work. Why? The sap has less sugar than sugar maple sap. So you need to boil down much more of it to end up with sweet-enough syrup.)

Some tree syrups don't even need sap! Some syrup-makers make non-pancake syrups from elm, cherry, tulip-poplar and shagbark hickory bark; from pine, fir and spruce buds; even from black locust flowers!


P.S. Elm, cherry and pine-bud syrups, for example, are folk remedies for coughs and colds.

Notes: Learn more about making maple syrup in OSU Extension's new North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual (details: Sources also included Kahiltna Birchworks,; Hickoryworks Inc.,; and "We Make Sweet Syrup from Pacific Northwest Trees," Mother Earth News, January 1979. A tip o' the antenna for this week's sweet question to non-sap reader D. Weezerbird!

About this column: "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a free public service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - specifically, of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, both part of the College - is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. The reading level typically rates at grades 3.5-4.5. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776. Online at

Kurt Knebusch