. Energy News .

Birch juice season takes Latvia by storm
by Staff Writers
Riga (AFP) April 09, 2013

A new generation of chefs are turning birch juice -- long regarded as a humble drink for peasants -- into a must-taste ingredient on the menus of Riga's trendiest restaurants.

As spring melts away a long winter deep in Latvia's vast forests, the stillness is almost imperceptibly broken by a rhythmic drip, drip, drip.

A small black tube protrudes from the trunk of a leafless tree growing among spruces, birches and pines. Trickling from it, into a plastic bag suspended below, is a clear, sweet, watery sap which has been one of this country's most popular drinks for centuries.

Here, late March to mid-April is "berzu sula", or "birch juice" season. Stalls groaning with bottles full of the sap have popped up by roadsides, while top chefs tout it as an essential ingredient in Latvian nouvelle cuisine and scientists, a health wonder.

Linards Liberts, the country's foremost birch juice expert who has revamped its rustic image, is especially enthusiastic after this year's long and bitterly cold winter. For him, even the snowiest cloud has a silver lining.

"The colder the winter, the sweeter the juice," says the 34-year-old. "That's why our birch juice is so special and why you can't get it in France or Italy - it simply doesn't get cold enough there for long enough. We're lucky to have such harsh winters!"

As soon as the temperature hits zero, he and throngs of other birch juice fans flock to forests, or their own back gardens, to tap Latvia's millions of birches, distinguished by their brilliant white bark.

For Liberts, this delicately sweet fluid has become the life-blood of his business.

"I deal with birch juice all year round, but for these two to three weeks, I am totally obsessed!" Liberts chuckles.

At his small organic farm in the central Latvian town of Ikskile, his cellar would make any French winery proud.

But instead of fermenting grape juice, it is stacked full of his birch juice products: still and sparkling wines, syrup, lemonade and schnapps, all elegantly-bottled and premium-priced.

"I have only around 200 trees. Compared to maple syrup production in Canada where even the smallest farms have thousands of trees, we're Lilliput," he smiles.

Still, Liberts is attracting an international reputation. Following an appearance at the World Organic Food fair in Germany in February, he received so many orders he had to turn most away as he was short on sap.

"People were amazed how fresh and pure the taste is, especially if they have only previously encountered the pasteurised, sweetened versions of birch juice that are popular in Belarus and Russia," he says.

Liberts is also doing his best to ensure birches are tapped in a way that causes the least possible damage.

"The old-fashioned way is to drill a large hole right into the heart of the tree, but we prefer to do something more like modern keyhole surgery. Seven millimetres is the optimum width of the hole and you should not go into the tree more than three to four centimetres," he warns, explaining that larger holes that damage trees only increase the flow by five to seven percent.

A powerful anti-oxidant


The sap is also prized by eco-cosmetics maker Madara, one of Latvia's most succesful businesses with outlets in 28 countries.

Research into the sap's anti-ageing properties at the University of Latvia, prompted the company to launch a new line of products last year promising a youthful glow.

"Birch juice both stimulates the growth of dermal and epidermal cells, and delays cell ageing," Madara founder Lotte Tisenkopfa-Iltnere told AFP.

The studies by researcher Dr. Janis Ancans show the organic sap's array of benefits as a powerful anti-oxidant.

"Birch juice not only rejuvenates but also protects skin cells from oxidative stress, including Ultra Violet rays, environmental pollution and consequences caused by inflammation," his recent study found.

A new generation of chefs are also turning birch juice -- long regarded as a humble drink for peasants -- into a must-taste ingredient on the menus of Riga's trendiest restaurants.

"It is especially good for poaching fish, making syrups and for sauces," says Chef Martins Sirmais, who co-owns several of the Latvian capital's most fashionable eateries.

"We have been promoting the use of birch juice for the last five or six years and it has definitely gained popularity, especially among foreigners who have never tasted it before," adds Latvia's top TV chef.

Even visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gul and his wife were treated to birch juice at a recent state banquet in Riga, Elvira Stepanova from the office of Latvian President Andris Berzins confirmed.

Given that the president's name actually derives from "berzs" -- Latvian for "birch" -- it seems appropriate that even the leader of the country can't resist the sap: "Yes, President Berzins taps birch trees in the springtime for their sap, and he does drink birch juice," Stepanova reveals.


Related Links
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Get Our Free Newsletters
Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear


Italy bids to close gap in wine exports to China
Rome (AFP) April 07, 2013
Italy is bidding to close the gap with its competitors in wine exports to China, said organisers of a major wine fair that opened on Sunday with a Chinese commerce ministry delegation in attendance. The Vinitaly fair in Verona in northern Italy is "a connecting bridge between Italian wine producers and the Asian market, which is close to becoming the biggest consumer of wine in the world," o ... read more

First Light for ISERV Pathfinder, Space Station's Newest 'Eye' on Earth

Watching over you

New Live Bi-ocular Animations of Two Oceans Now Available

NASA Flies Radar South on Wide-Ranging Scientific Expedition

China preps civilian use of GPS system

GPS device could stem bike thefts

Apple patent shows pen with GPS, phone

Ground system improves satellite navigation precision

Taiwan man's tree-top protest goes into 11th day

Asian Long-Horned Beetle eradicated from Canada: govt

Researchers question evaluation methods for protected areas in the Amazon

Decreased Water Flow May be Trade-off for More Productive Forest

Renewable Energy Group Selects FuelQuest Zytax Determination to Automate Energy Tax Processing

Researchers Engineer Plant Cell Walls to Boost Sugar Yields for Biofuels

Regulation recommendations so that biofuel plants don't become weeds

Making fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere

Completion of Molten Salt Solar Receiver sets Milestone in Nevada Solar Project Construction

Sterling And Wilson Commissions Largest Solar Project

Solar Photovoltaic Demand In Emerging Asian Countries To Grow By 28 Percent Annually Through 2017

Homeowners Say Solar Energy Better Investment than Home Renovation or Car Purchase

Wind skeptic British minister replaced

Using fluctuating wind power

France publishes 1GW offshore wind tenders

Davey lauds, warns Scotland on renewables

Outside View: Coal exports save lives

China mine blast kills 28: state media

Six dead, 11 missing, in new blast at China mine

China mine accident kills 21: state media

Tibet disaster shows China resource divide

Chinese activist Chen meets Bush, urges pressure

Tibetan envoy says China can end immolations

China firm says first lady's style not for sale

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement