Birch Syrup

Birch Syrup is an unusual natural sweetener obtained from the sap of Birch trees. 

It is used in much the same way as Maple Syrup, though it is more difficult to produce, due to it's higher water content and lower sugar content.

Like Maple Syrup it contains some minerals and vitamins, though the content of the sugars is very different. When boiled down, to reduce the water content, it is slightly sweeter than ordinary sugar or Maple Syrup. It is a brown viscous liquid like honey. It can be used as a sweetener on its own or as an ingredient in cooking.

Its glycemic index is about 50, somewhat lower than sugar.

A typical breakdown would be:

Sugar Percentage
Water 35%
Fructose 32.5%
Glucose 26%
Sucrose 5%
Galactose 1%
Ash 0.5%

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Used exactly like Maple Syrup though it has a more subtle aroma and flavor. Can be used for glazing meats and in cooking, both sweet and savory. It is expensive but it can enhance the menu in a restaurant by suggesting a different and rare experience.

It is a natural unprocessed product. Unlike refined sugar no chemicals are used in its manufacturing. It has a unique pleasant flavor. It is a good source of certain minerals and it also contains B vitamins.

It is mostly sugar and water. Therefore, if taken in excess, it can cause all of the same problems as sugar, i.e. tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity. For this reason it should be counted as part of the daily intake of refined sugar, and moderation exercised. In addition, unlike Maple Syrup, it is high in fructose.

Safety Guidelines:
The World Health Organization recommend no more than 50gm refined sugar per day (about 12 small teaspoons) for an average adult and are considering reducing this to 25gm. This would apply to all sugars including birch syrup.

It is a natural product produced from birch trees. A hole is drilled into the tree and a tap inserted to allow the sap to flow into a bucket. The liquid that is collected is mostly water and must be boiled down to produce the syrup. Much more reduction is required than maple syrup, so a higher cost is incurred. No chemicals or enzymes are used in the process, it is a totally natural product.

You can quite easily tap your own birch syrup. Kits are available for a few dollars online and it's not complicated. And you don't have to be in Canada, European Birch trees are very suitable! Must be done in late February or early March before the buds swell up and burst. It can be used to make wine, or as a drink on it's own. To produce the syrup, long and moderate heat is recommended to avoid spoiling the flavor.

Sold As:
Different grades are available and the price depends on source location and stage in the season when harvested.

How Expensive?
It's just about the most expensive sweetener you can buy. It's about 75 times the price of sugar by volume.

Market Share:
It's market share as a sweetener would be virtually zero. It is a specialty and quality product.

Interesting facts:
It is far more scarce than Maple Syrup and up to 5 times as expensive. The trees are not as productive, and the sugar content is lower. The syrup itself is low in sucrose but high in fructose.

Does not require approval. 


Conclusions for Birch Syrup

It is a natural product and is fine in moderation. However it is just another form of sugar and is high in fructose. Care needs to be taken to avoid excessive consumption. Not suitable for diabetics. Should be used in place of, not in addition to, ordinary sugar. Does not have the medicinal or antiseptic qualities of honey. It's expensive, so perhaps best used on special occasions!

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Birch Syrup 4 1.1 50 14

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No
Concerns: ----- Yes

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