By Michael Rosen, President Tree Canada
The Olympics comes every four years but Canada’s real gold comes annually from that nectar of the Gods, maple syrup. We are fortunate to have the one type of tree (maple) and the one type of climate (cold) that enables it to happen….
About 85% of the world’s maple syrup is produced in Canada with production measured by the number of taps. I have a grand total of 15 taps. Yet I can’t think of a better way to celebrate being Canadian, to connect with nature, to celebrate the return of Spring and to pretend, in a limited way to “live off the land”.
Maple trees have the sweetest, best tasting sap. Any species of maple will do. Sugars manufactured by the leaves the summer before are sent to the roots for storage. With the longer days and higher temperatures of Spring (maximum production is achieved at -5oC at night and +5oC in the day), the tree uses these sugars to initiate buds. Maple trees can be tapped at about 40 years old and will yield sap well into their 200th year with no long-term damage. Tapping is traditionally done by drilling a 7/16 inch hole about 5 cm (2 inches) deep in trees at least 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter. The number of taps/tree increases with its diameter. Traditionally a bucket with a lid is hung from a spile that is driven into the hole. A well drilled tap in a sugar maple tree can easily yield one litre of finished syrup during the season with a huge amount of collecting and boiling…Because the sap can spoil on warm days, the sap has to be collected daily and either kept cold or sent to the evaporator. The ratio of sap to finished syrup is about 40:1, so the amount of boiling is tremendous!
Today, there are many technological innovations for serious producers such as pipeline systems and reverse osmosis. But for us backyard producers the bucket and boil method (by wood fire or propane) will probably always prevail. So enjoy the welcome of Spring by visiting a sugar bush with your friends or workmates, buying maple products and trying to produce maple syrup, the nectar of the Gods on your own land and feel proud to be a Canadian!