It’s sugarin’ time again

I’m not sure there are many tasks I find more gratifying than making maple syrup. It’s a bit like magic.
It’s called sugarin’ season by some but whatever you call it, the act of collecting sap and putting it on my wood stove makes me happy.
I have a gargantuan green pot that I use for little else aside of reducing my maple sap. It takes about two full days to reduce all that clear liquid down to about one litre to be put in the fridge to wait for the final boil, and by that time it is a lovely golden brown.
Some say tapping trees and collecting sap is too much work for a few litres of syrup. It really has little to do with the inventory of syrup I am left with but rather the producing of it, which is true of so much of life.
Indigenous peoples in North America were tapping maple trees and making maple syrup long before Europeans arrived, using birch bark containers and heated stones. The Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia, for instance, tell of cooking venison in the sweet water from the maple trees and maple curing was how they preserved some of their food.
As I walk to my trees every morning to see if the wind scuttled my operation overnight, as well as to encourage each tree, I feel a deep connection for all that came before me and I feel restored to honour that history and to be grateful for those lives and their wisdom.
Many trees are tapped year after year, often far more than a hundred years. The tree releases about seven percent of its sap during the sugar season, when temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.
The swing of temperatures causes a negative pressure as the day progresses, telling the roots to absorb water, thereby restoring the positive pressure for the next day’s flow of sap. It’s a start-and-stop process.
It takes 35-45 litres of sap to create one litre of maple syrup. But like I said: it’s magic.
Canada is the world’s leading producer of maple syrup. In 2016, Canada produced 12.2 million gallons of maple syrup, comprising 71 percent of the world’s market.
Any maple tree can be tapped for maple syrup, but the sugar maple has the highest concentration of sugar in its sap. Maple syrup also has an abundance of trace minerals that are essential to good health, even calcium, plus it is yummy.
Some serious maple syrup producers are in my backyard, with a network of collection lines running from tree to tree, using gravity, and emptying in the sugar shack for reducing over a fire or other heat source.
I tap 10 maple trees and some of them share their sap more readily than others. It is definitely a labour of love but I don’t find it hard work at all. It is a joyful practice that I look forward to each year, and I am even happier when I pour my own syrup over my pancakes.
Thank you, maple trees, and thank you to the indigenous peoples for sharing your wisdom.
wendistewart@live.ca

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