MAPLE SYRUP: sweet syrup of the gods!
A few weeks ago we tapped about 60 maple trees on John's mom's land and it finally really started running last week. So I had my first sap boil of the season last Friday. It's really tough work... sitting, reading and tending a fire all day :)
Prepare yourself for the low down on the maple syrup making process.
Now for a bit of food history and botany: Maple syrup is possibly the oldest agricultural product in North America and was first collected by the indigenous peoples which in turn, was adopted and further refined by European settlers. Many tribes call the first full moon of spring the Sugar Moon.
Sap is collected from the xylem (the tree trunk's main vascular water way) of the sugar maple, red maple or black maple. You can also even collect sap from birch and other maple trees but sugar maple has the highest sugar content, hence it's name. These trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter which is then converted to sugar that rises with water from the roots in the xylem in the early spring weather due to root pressure. A pressure gradient develops between the soil water and roots when photosynthesis is inactive which causes water to flow into the roots producing positive root pressure pushing sap up through the xylem. As a general rule sap only runs when it is below freezing at night but above freezing during the day; this is why the maple syrup season can either be only a few days long or up to a month or more! It all depends on the spring weather and when the trees begin to leaf out and start photosynthesis and transpiration (which eliminates root pressure).