Pear Haw. Crataegus tomentosa. Oct.
C. punctata. Sep.-Ort. Scarlet Thorn. C. coccinea. Sep.-Oct.
The sap season generally begins about the middle of March and lasts until the third week in April, but varies with a late or an early spring. Sap may begin to flow in mid February, or may be held back until the first of April. It continues "good" from three to six weeks; that is, until the buds swell, after which the sap becomes strong and "buddy." _ It flows best on a warm day succeeding' a freezing night. Trees with large crowns yield the most sap. Those standing in or near cold springs discharge the most and sweetest sap. An average tree may yield, in favorable weather, about two gallons of sap in 24 hours.
The Indians' and early frontiersmen's method of tapping a tree was to "box" it by cutting a slanting notch in the trunk, about 8 inches long, two or three feet from the ground, and inserting an elder or sumac spout in the bark below the lower end of the notch, from which the sap was caught in a trough or pail; or, two gashes would be cut like a broad V, and a spout was put in at the bottom. Such notching yields a rapid flow, but spoils the tree.
A better way is to bore a hole through the outer bark and just into the sapwood (say from one to two inches depth) on the sunny side of the tree, and insert a spout. With wooden spouts the hole must be larger than when iron ones are used, but make it no larger than necessary (certainly not over one inch), or you will injure the tree. The hole should slope slightly upward.
Place a bucket under each spout. It may be necessary, in a wild region, to drive stout stakes around the buckets in such way that they cannot be robbed; for wild animals, as well as domestic ones, are inordinately fond of maple sap, which seems to exhilarate them when taken in large quantities.
Collect the sap every morningj before it can get warm from the heat of the sun, as it sours easily. Boil it in a kettle to the consistency of honey; then dip it out, pass through woolen strainers, and allow it to stand several hours until impurities have precipitated. It is then ready for use.
To make maple sugar, boil the sirup in a kettle deep enough to keep it from boiling over. Keep it simmering over a slow fire until a heavy scum rises to the surface. Skim this off, and continue the boiling until, when a little of the sirup is stirred in a saucer, it grains (granulates); or until, when spread on the snow, it candies on cooling. Then pour it off into molds. As a rule, it takes about four gallons of sap to make a pound of sugar, and 35 gallons to make a gallon of sirup, but there are wide variations, according to quality of sap.
Sap may be reduced to sugar by alternate freezing and thawing, the ice being thrown away each time it freezes.
Just as good sugar and sirup are made from the red maple and from the silver (white or soft) maple as from the sugar maple (rock maple or sugar tree), but the sap is not quite so rich in sugar, and the running season is shorter. Since these trees bud earlier than sugar maple, they should be tapped earlier. The sap of the ash-leaved maple (commonly called box elder) has similar qualities; also that of the striped maple (moosewood, striped or swamp dogwood), but this tree seldom grows large enough to be worth using.
There is a decided maple flavor in the sap of the shellbark hickory. A good sirup can be concocted by steeping a handful of the dried and crushed inner bark of this tree in hot water to a strong "tea" and adding sufficient brown sugar. An extract commercially made from the bark is used in making a spurious "maple sirup" out of cane or corn sirup. It is safe to say that not one-tenth of the alleged maple sugar and sirup now on the market is free from this or similar adulteration.
As a backwoods expedient, sirup may be made from the abundant and sugary sap of the black birch (sweet birch). In times of scarcity the pods of the honey locust have been utilized to the same end. They must be used within a month after maturity; later they become bitter.
None of our native plants contain principles that act upon the nerves like the caffein of coffee or the thein of tea; consequently all substitutes for coffee and tea are unsatisfying, except merely as hot drinks of agreeable taste. Millions of war-bound people are suffering this deprivation now.
In the South, during the Civil War, many pitiful expedients were tried, such as decoctions of parched meal, dried sweet potatoes, wheat, chicory, cottonseed, persimmon-seed, dandelion-seed, and the seeds of the Kentucky coffee-tree. Better substitutes for coffee were made from parched rye, from the seeds of the coffee senna (Cassia occidentalism called "Magdad coffee," and from the parched and ground seeds of okra. Governor Brown of Georgia once said that the Confederates got more satisfaction out of the goldenrod flowrers than out of any other makeshift for coffee. "Take the bloom," he directed, "dry it, and boil to an extract" (meaning tincture).
Teas, so-called, of very good flavor can be made from the dried root-bark of sassafras, or from its early buds, from the bark and leaves of spicewood, from the leaves of chicory, ginseng, dittany, the; sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora), and cinquefoil. Other plants used for the purpose are Labrador tea, Oswego tea, and (inferior) New Jersey tea. Our pioneers also made decoctions of chips of the ar-bor-vitae (white cedar) and of sycamore, the dried leaves of black birch, and the tips of hemlock boughs, sweetening them with maple sugar; but here we approach the list of medicinal teas, which is well-nigh endless. The Indians made a really good "maple tea" by boiling sassafras-root bark for a short time in maple sap.