Have you ever wondered where maple syrup comes from?
This time of year in Chardon or other Northeast Ohio towns, you will notice many of the maple trees have small metal buckets attached, or a plastic tubing system running from tree to tree. Those tubes and buckets are collecting sap from the maple trees, which is used to make maple syrup. If you have ever attended a Burton pancake breakfast, you have definitely enjoyed local maple syrup on your pancakes!
Where Maple Syrup Comes From
Maple trees, specifically sugar maples, are among the most common Ohio trees. Although you can make maple syrup from other maples, sugar maples have higher sugar content and make the best-tasting syrup.
In late winter and early spring, maple trees will begin something known as “sap flow.” Ground water mixes with the sugar in the tree to produce a liquid called sap.
During periods when temperatures rise above freezing, pressure develops in the tree, causing the sap to flow quickly through the tree.
Tapping a Maple Tree
Maple syrup producers “tap” these trees to get at the sap, meaning they will drill a tiny hole into the exterior of the tree and insert a small tap. A bucket is then set underneath the tap to catch the sap as it flows out of the tree.
The number of taps that a maple tree can support depends on the tree’s size. As a rough rule of thumb, a 10-17 inch diameter tree should have 1 tap, an 18-24 inch diameter tree can have 2 taps, and a tree larger than 25 inches around can support up to 3 taps.
Depending on the method used to tap a tree, each maple tree can produce between 10 and 20 gallons of sap per tap. Sap volume also depends on the age and health of the tree, weather conditions, and how long the sap season lasts.
Tapping a tree, when done properly, does not endanger the tree or cause it any harm, and the naturally produced sap contributes to a local product we can all enjoy.
About Maple Syrup
The sap, which contains a high concentration of sugar, is collected and boiled down to produce maple syrup. It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to produce just one gallon of maple syrup!
Maple syrup is classified according to its color, which is a rough guide to flavor intensity. The darker the syrup (like Grade B maple syrup), the stronger the flavor. Many people prefer the lighter Grade A varieties of maple syrup.
While we like to think that we make some of the best maple syrup right here in Northeast Ohio, the fact is that the quality of maple syrup really depends on weather conditions during the maple season, when the sap is collected, and how it’s processed. That’s why flavor can vary from year to year.
Northeast Ohio maple syrup production is celebrated every April during the Geauga County Maple Festival. The festival was founded in 1926 to raise awareness of maple syrup production in this area. Today, it remains a popular local event featuring maple products for sampling and purchase and sap boiling demonstrations.