Collection of Coconut Sap
Coconut Sugar and Coconut Vinegar are both made from the Sap of the Coconut Tree. This sap is collected twice a day and comes from the stem that would normally feed a group of coconuts. Collection of the sap is done by snipping the stem (called the florescence) and bending it into a collection vessel (usually a bamboo tube with a plug in the bottom). The slow drip of sap into this collecting vessel is similar to the slow drip into the coconuts as they mature. This is not taxing on the tree in any way.
All coconut trees continuously make new coconuts, and are accustomed to a nonstop flow: drawing moisture up from the roots into their trunk, and on to the leaves and maturing coconuts. At any point in time a particular coconut tree will have flowers, tiny new coconuts, coconuts that are 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months. .old, up to 12 months old. Coconuts are typically between 12 and 14 month old when they drop from the tree as mature coconuts ready to sprout and start a new tree. People who harvest coconuts from their trees typically collect them every 2-4 weeks all year long.
When coconut trees are used to collect sap, they then become a "sap tree" and no longer are allowed to produce coconuts. The amount of trees in the Philippines used for the collection of sap is very small -less than 1% of the total coconut trees in that country. Harvesting the sap allows small farmers to make value added products that help them earn better wages. Normally, the trees that are used for sap production are already quite old (generally over 50 years old) and their production of coconuts has gone down. This is why most tapped trees for sap are very tall, which means they have to climb very high to collect the sap, but these trees are still strong and hardy.
I was able to go to some of the farms that create the coconut sap sugar and I noticed that the majority of the trees tapped for sap were around the homes. This serves several purposes: First, it is important to know that each year more people are killed by coconuts hitting them on the head than by lightning strikes. Harvesting all coconut trees around the house as sap trees makes the yard area safer for the children, family members, their animals and guests. Secondly, because these trees need to have their sap collected twice a day and all processing takes place in the home, using the trees around the house makes it much more convenient. Finally, having the big older trees around the house offers shade from the hot tropical heat and it is not feasible to cut them down and plant new trees. I also saw sap collection going on in the grassy park-like areas around hotels and parks. Here again, I believe it is because of consideration for safety, and yet these trees offer both shade and sap to their care-giver/owners.
While in Indonesia and the Philippines I was able to view trees that have been tapped for over 10 years. The trees appeared both strong and healthy. Wilderness Family Naturals feels it is nice to have all the products that can be made from the coconut tree: Coconut Oil, Dehydrated Coconut, Coconut Spreads, Coconut Milk, Coconut Water, Coconut Cream, Coconut Sap Sugar, Coconut Vinegar, etc., and it is nice that there are different farmers who produce different products. In addition, it is wonderful to see the impact we are having on so many communities.