Black Walnuts, Sap Flowing, Sugar

Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)February 10, 2013

Today turned out really nice, temps. in the mid 30's and sunny so it felt really good. I walked by my black walnut today and noticed a couple branches which had had the tips eaten off some time this winter. Much to my surprise, both the broken tips were dripping sap. This seems strange since the tree won't be leafing out until late May approaching Memorial Day. Do dormant trees run sap during the middle of winter on warm days? Is this tree crazy?

To add to my surprise, I tasted the sap and it was quite sweet. Could black walnuts be a substitute for sugar maples?

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Was just thinking about this the other day, as February is when we start sugaring here, (ohio) and if I am going to this year, need to get my stuff out and get it ready. The season's first taps are the sweetest. You can't go by a calendar, sap starts moving depending on day warmth compared to night cold. I've heard with maples it should start before the flower buds open and they are very pregnant now.

Yes, it's said you can use other trees but I surely can't speak to the quality of the sirup and supposedly walnut is one of them. I'm sure you could google it and find out which ones might be candidates. I know some trees have chemicals in them one would call toxic. I do not know which ones would be safe to tap and ingest. If you collect and eat from the wild, you will have to research this yourself because you can get yourself into trouble assuming everything is safe. ;-)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 5:03AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Yes, I've heard they do yield a sugary sap, but the liquid amount produced is too small to be of practical use.

Can't verify this, but I think the juglone is only in the root tissues, not the sap.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:44AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i dont think trees ever technically stop moving liquids around ...

i took some conifer cuttings [scion] lat week. and the pine started leaking pretty good..

the real question is what triggers bud growth ... which might be soil temps ... well... thats what we wait for.. when grafting... we warm the media.. so the roots start extending.. so the understock becomes active ... so the wound will heal ...

i havent finished my first coffee.. i am not sure i am saying what i am trying to say .. lol ..


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 8:50AM
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Yes, you can 'tap' walnuts and hickories. I've seen articles in the NNGA proceedings where they'd made syrup from BWs, butternuts, and various maple species other than sugar maple, and conducted taste tests. The walnut syrups were well accepted.
Have no recollection at this time, however, how they stacked up, taste-wise, or what volume of sap was required to produce X volume of syrup.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:23AM
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Figured so. I can attest by experience that there is a significant difference in sap flow even within the maples. I've tapped sugar maple, red and silver the same year and frankly the sugar maple produced so heavily I'd have to change sap bags several times a day, comparied to a partial bag a day on a silver. There are more variables to the equation than just species as well. The sun exposed side of a tree will bleed more heavily as well than tapping a shaded tree, since trees don't have hearts. Sap movement depends on a lot of variables. I've seen grape vines bleed in mid-winter given the right circumstances.

I wasn't thinking of juglone when I mentioned to be cautious about toxicity when gathering anything from the wild. I know there are trees like buckeye, robinia and prunus serotina where one must be careful about exposure to domestic animals. I have absolutely no clue off-hand about whether the offending chemical compounds are in, or could contaminate sap. I'm not willing to be a guinea pig to find out, either. rofl.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:44AM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

Thanks. It just really surprised me. I never see sap running in the boxelder, which is the most prolific sap-running tree I have, until late March or April shortly before the buds swell and the leaves start to break. Figured this time of year, the walnut would have all its liquids socked away somewhere.

Got another little taste today from the drips although the temperature never got above 25, and a little sap-cicle towards sunset when the drops had frozen solid on the cut ends. The sap is nicely, mildly sweet. I think the boxelder sap has a higher sugar content or at least a sweeter taste.

The branches got grazed by sheep sometime over the winter. They didn't get much--maybe an inch or two as they are too high for them to reach except for the couple ladies that have learned how to stand up on their hind legs. I have found that sheep make great husk removers for the walnuts in the fall. Leave the nuts on the ground when they fall off the tree, the sheep will eat the husks right off and leave the nuts lay. Still a small tree, not many nuts, not worried about toxicity although I never gave it a thought, either. But, the sheep do scarf down the leaves as they fall and I haven't had any 4 legs up afterwards!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:26AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I too have read about Black Walnut syrup, but have not tried it. As to sap flow, I cut a 2 inch thick branch off one in February one time and it bled like the proverbial stuck pig. Had I known then that it made good syrup I might have collected a few gallons as it kept draining for over two weeks.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:50PM
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Sap-to-syrup ratio for maple is approximately 40:1. Takes a lot of sap to make much syrup.
Have no idea how the walnuts stack up, yield-wise.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 10:51AM
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It certainly does take a lot of sap to boil down for the finished product. I evaporated for two days straight the last time I tapped and got something like half a gallon. Now, it might not sound like a lot, but a little goes a pretty long way of the pure stuff. It's not a particulary pleasant experience to do it inside, either. Guess that's why a lot of folks who might want to do it change their minds when presented with the directions, no? It's a delicacy and in these days folks are more prone to treat delicacies like staples since it's a supermarket shelf away.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:52PM
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