How to Harvest Coconut Sap for Sugar & Vinegar
The Collection of Sap for Coconut Sugar and Vinegar
Coconut Sugar and Coconut Vinegar are both made from the sap of the coconut tree. The sap is collected twice a day, from a stem that would normally support a group of coconuts. The collection is done by cutting the stem and bending it into an appropriate vessel (usually a bamboo tube sealed at the bottom). The slow drip of coconut sap into this collection vessel is similar to the rate at which the coconuts receive it as they mature. It’s not taxing on the tree in any way.
As with all trees, coconut trees continuously sprout new fruits, i.e. coconuts. They’re accustomed to the non-stop flow of moisture drawn up from the roots into the trunk, and on to the leaves and maturing coconuts. At any given point in time, a tree will have flowers, tiny new coconuts, and coconuts anywhere between one and twelve months old. Coconuts are typically between 12 and 14 months old when they drop from the tree. These are mature coconuts, able to take root in the soil and start a new tree. Coconut harvesters typically collect coconuts every two to four weeks all year long.
When a coconut tree is used to collect sap, it becomes a "sap tree" and is no longer allowed to produce coconuts. This is how the growers try to harvest all the coconut sap produced by the tree. Most of the world’s coconuts come from South and Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, for example, the number of coconut trees used for sap is very small — less than 1% of the total. Sap collection allows small-scale farmers to make value-added products that help them earn better income. Usually, the trees that are used to collect sap are quite old (over 50 years old), and they don’t produce coconuts nearly as often. This is why most trees tapped for sap are very tall, and the harvesters have to climb very high to collect it.
How Does Sap Collection Happen in Southeast Asia?
Local farmers, with generations of accumulated experience, not only understand how to harvest coconut sap efficiently, they have perfected the ways of sustainable coexistence with the trees. If you were to travel down to some of the farms that create coconut sap sugar, you’ll notice that the majority of the trees tapped for sap are right around the homes of the farmers. This serves several purposes: First, falling coconuts are a health hazard, and sap trees have no coconuts. More people are killed by coconuts hitting them on the head each year than by lightning strikes. ‘Sapping’ all the coconut trees around the homes makes the yard area safer for the children, family members, their animals, and guests. Second, coconut sap needs to be collected twice a day and processed at home. Having the trees close by makes it much more convenient. Finally, having the big older coconut palm trees around the house provides much-needed shade from the tropical heat. You might even see sap collection going on in hotel lawns and public parks. Here again, it is largely done in consideration of safety for the passers-by. There are many trees in the Philippines and Indonesia that have been tapped for coconut sap for over 10 years. They are strong and healthy.
Coconut trees yield a number of different products, all of which have beneficial properties: Coconut Oil, Coconut Flour, Coconut Sap Sugar, Coconut Vinegar, Coconut Cream, Coconut Milk Powder, Coconut Spread, and more. It’s important to us we source our high-quality organic foods responsibly, we at Wildly Organic also take pride in the impact it creates for farming communities.