South Korea: Tree Sap season renews Gorosoe tree medicine for the people’s bones

When frogs begin stirring from their winter sleep and woodpeckers drum
for newly active insects, villagers climb the hills around here to
collect a treasured elixir – sap from the maple tree known as gorosoe.
“It’s important to have the right weather,” said Park Jeom Sik, 56,
toting plastic tubs and a drill up a moss-covered slope. “The
temperature should drop below freezing at night and then rise to a
warm, bright, windless day.

If it’s rainy, windy or cloudy, the trees won’t give.” In the past decade, thanks in part to the bottling industry and marketing campaigns by local governments, gorosoe sap has become popular with urban dwellers as well. “I send most of my sap to Seoul,” said Park, who harvests 5,000 liters of sap in a good year. Koreans may have been drinking sap as early as a millennium ago, historians say.

According to one popular legend, Doseon, a 9th-century
Buddhist monk, achieved enlightenment after months of meditating
cross-legged under a maple tree near here. When he finally tried to
get up, his stiffened legs would not work. The sap from the tree fixed
the problem. Yeo said that villagers used to make a V-shaped incision
in the tree and insert a large bamboo leaf to run the sap into wooden
or earthenware tubs. Then they would carry away the sap-filled tubs on
their backs.

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For centuries, southern Korean villagers like Park have been tapping
the gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones.” Unlike North Americans who
collect maple sap to boil down into syrup, Korean villagers and their
growing number of customers prefer the sap itself, which they credit
with a wide range of health benefits. In this they are not alone. Some
people in Japan and northern China drink maple sap, and birch sap has
its fans in Russia and other parts of northern Europe. But no one
surpasses southern Koreans in their enthusiasm for sap, which they can
consume in prodigious quantities. “The right way is to drink an entire
mal” – 20 liters, or about 5 gallons – “at once,” said Yeo Man Yong, a
72-year-old farmer in Hadong.

“That’s what we do. And that’s what gorosoe lovers from the outside do when they visit our village.” But how? How can you drink the equivalent of 56 beer cans of sap at one go? “You and your family or friends get yourselves a room with a heated floor,” Yeo said, taking a break under a maple tree in Hadong,
290 kilometers, or 180 miles, south of Seoul. “You keep drinking while, let’s say, playing cards. Salty snacks like dried fish help because they make you thirsty. The idea is to sweat out all the bad stuff and replace it with sap.” Drinking gorosoe has long been a springtime ritual for villagers in these rugged hills, for whom the rising of the sap in the maples is the first sign of the new season. Some villagers even use the sap, which tastes like vaguely sweet, weak green tea, in place of water in cooking.

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Comments (2)

Laurence junJanuary 28th, 2010 at 10:37 pm

i like a gorose tree i wish i can have some… heheh

tinDecember 27th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

What other research for a sap of a particular tree can be suggested?

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