I’ve achieved my adult goal of owning a farm. Now comes the fun part of deciding what to do with five acres of potential.
I recently attended the Pacific Agriculture Show. I was so excited and inspired I lost count of the texts I was firing off to Shanna and Nikkey. They must have thought I had gone off the deep end. Suddenly I was going to hunt for truffles, tap Big Leaf Maples for syrup and grow amazing garlic! For a mere $90.00 I had access to three days of the tradeshow and as many of the 100 seminars as I wanted. By the end of the weekend I had to really to rein myself in. I only have five acres. There is no way I am ever going to live long enough to do it all the things, never mind be physically capable!!!
Now as I relax by the fire with a warm cup of tea I would love to share with you some of the highlights of what I learned in this first of a two-part series. I hope I can inspire you to try something different this year in your garden.
Tapping Big Leaf Maples
I love these native trees. I love their strength; majestic growth and the way they form protective canopies in the forest. The heavily ridged bark and beautiful big leaves make our Pacific Northwest forests more beautiful, and now I found out they’re more than just a pretty face.
During the months from November to February, with January usually being the best, Big Leaf Maples can be tapped for syrup just the same way that the Sugar Maples in Ontario and Quebec are tapped. Big Leaf Maples will not make the same high quality table syrup of the Sugar Maples, but the harvested syrup can be used for many other purposes such as craft beer, of which I’m a big fan.
The right time to tap the Maples is when the days are warmer and the nights are below freezing, or when we have a weather pattern change. This is when the sap flow is at its peak.
- Covered bucket or other large plastic container with a hole for the hose to go in
- Clear 3/16 tubing
- Drill and drill bit
Now you are ready to venture out there and tap your maple tree. Maples that are growing in sun or an area where they are getting lots of light exposure and enough moisture will yield more syrup. Avoid maples that are very close to cedar trees as the cedars can influence the taste and quality of the syrup. If you can find some maples on a slope this will allow for a better flow. If multiple Maples are available in same area you may even be able to set up a “pipeline”. Ranger Rosemary, AKA Shanna, would like to remind you not to tap a Big Leaf Maple in parks, but stick to those on residential or non-park municipal property.
Drill your holes a smidge smaller than the spile on a slightly upward angle to a depth of about 2”. This may vary depending on the size of the trunk. Once the hole is drilled, immediately hammer in the spile and attach your tubing. You’ll need at least 4-5 spiles per tree to create enough vacuum and on at least a 5% slope. You can space your spiles about 4” apart on the trunk and have one piece of tubing going around the trunk. Connect he tubing from each spile into the run which loops around the trunk then into the collection bucket.
Process your harvested syrup as soon as possible. You could freeze the syrup then process it later if more convenient. We have decided to plant some Big Leaf Maples for syrup on the back slope of our property. These trees should grow for at least five years before they’re ready, but when they are we’ll implement the pipeline method. This is my type of pipeline!!
I first became interested in truffles about five years ago when I heard about truffles being grown commercially in our area. I love cooking and wondered what kind of delicacies I could create if I just had some fresh truffles.
To grow truffles as a crop you must purchase inoculated trees then plant them. Most of the trees being used in this area are hazelnuts inoculated with the Perigord Truffle. The second most expensive Truffle on the market. After a minimum of seven to ten years your truffles will be ready to harvest.
Most producers of truffles use dogs to find the them because they grow 4” under the soil. The dogs will find the truffles and indicate to their owner “Hey, there’s a truffle here!” The owner will then dig and uncover the truffle. One commercial grower who is now harvesting BC’s first commercial truffle crop is using pigs. The odour given off by truffles is very close to a pigs sex hormone so they are natural truffle hunters while the dogs must be trained.
We do have native truffles here in the Pacific Northwest. The two native varieties are the Oregon White and the Oregon Black. They will grow in wooded areas usually under Douglas firs which are 20-60 years old. Of course, you would need a trained dog to find these truffles. There is a ton of work involved in training dogs for this specialized task, but it can be a very rewarding hobby.
There is no way that I have enough land or patience to grow truffles. Sadly, they are now totally off the table of interest for me to grow as a commercial crop. However, with my trusty sidekick, Duck Toller Retriever Penny, we are going to learn how to hunt wild truffles. Penny and I will be heading off to the forest soon for some lessons on truffle hunting.
Have experience tapping maples or hunting truffles? We’d love to hear from you