December 17th is National Maple Syrup Day! And there’s no better way to celebrate than with a pile of fluffy pancakes, sweet French toast, or golden waffles, topped off with fresh maple syrup! It is usually created from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees that maple syrup is made from although it not limited to those maple species.
These trees, in cold climates, store starch in their trunks and in their roots. In the spring, the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap. The maple trees are then tapped by boring holes into their trunks and the released sap is collected. After the sap is collected, it is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.
Maple syrup was first collected, processed and used by the indigenous peoples of North America. The practice was then adopted by the European settlers who gradually refined production methods. In the 1970s further refinements in the syrup processing were made with technological improvements.
Like many things we enjoy each day, we can thank farmers for delicious maple syrup! A maple syrup production farm is called a "sugarbush" or "sugarwood". Sap is often boiled in a "sugar house" (also known as a "sugar shack", "sugar shanty", or cabane à sucre), a building louvered at the top to vent the steam from the boiling sap.
Maples are usually tapped beginning at 30 to 40 years of age. Each tree can support between one and three taps, depending on its trunk diameter. The average maple tree will produce 35 to 50 litres (9.2 to 13.2 US gal) of sap per season, up to 12 litres (3.2 US gal) per day. This is roughly equal to seven percent of its total sap. Seasons last for four to eight weeks, depending on the weather. During the day, starch stored in the roots for the winter rises through the trunk as sugary sap, allowing it to be tapped. Sap is not tapped at night because the temperature drop inhibits sap flow, although taps are typically left in place overnight. Some producers also tap in autumn, though this practice is less common than spring
Up until the 1930s the United States led in maple syrup production, now Canada is the world’s largest maple syrup producer. Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States.