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Tis’ the (End of the) Season for Maple Syrup

The smell of maple syrup makes my memory dance back to a time in my childhood kitchen, watching steam float off a stack of pancakes on the kitchen table while the first snow falls outside as I’m snuggled warm in an oversized sweater. I’ve always associated maple syrup with fall/early winter. I remember visiting maple forests on school field trips during apple picking season (I spent the first few years of my life in CT) and sitting down combing sheep’s wool with those who lived the slower life I’ve always yearned for. The strong smells, flavors, and visual memories of this time always led me to the misguided conclusion that maple syrup production happens entirely in the fall. I was completely wrong and only recently corrected almost 20 years after my first visit to a maple farm.

Depending on elevation and weather conditions, maple syrup harvesting can start as early as January to as late as mid-March. Usually by mid-April collectors have finished boiling down the sap to create the final product we all love so much (who doesn’t love maple syrup?!). Reaching the finished product by mid-April is why I’m currently writing this blog, to encourage us all to take a moment and be present with the spring arrival of the gift of maple syrup.

Here’s are some fun facts about what this process looks like:

  • 13 states are recognized by the USDA as producing maple syrup: CT, IN, ME, MA, MI, MN, NH, NY, OH, PA, VT, WV, and WI. 
  • Vermont always takes the lead in producing the most maple syrup in the U.S. but Quebec, Canada takes the cake in North America.
  • Sugarhouses are where maple syrup is boiled and refined. These are usually open for the public to visit.
  • Many large maple trees in New England have been tapped for over 100 years!
  • Lighter-colored maple syrup is drawn earlier in the season and the stronger flavored, darker syrup is produced near the end of the maple harvest.
  • It takes at least 40 years for a maple tree to grow large enough to tap.
  • While all maples can produce syrup, Sugar Maples have the highest sugar content in their sap. 
  • About 40 gallons of Sugar Maple sap are needed to create one gallon of syrup. It can take over 60 gallons of sap from a Box Elder to create one gallon of syrup.

Maple syrup still reminds me of fall, but now I see it as a marker between two equinoxes. Thankfully, we can enjoy maple syrup year-round! If you live in an area appropriate for maple syrup production, plant a maple tree this year so that in 40 years another generation can enjoy the sap it produces. Also, please choose to support the small businesses that produce this amber deliciousness by buying real maple syrup any chance you get. It may be more expensive than the corn-syrup substitutes found on grocery shelves across the country, but it’s worth every penny considering the labor of love put into its creation. 

Sources:

Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.-a). Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. Retrieved April 21, 2021, from https://www.massmaple.org/about-maple-syrup/frequently-asked-questions/

Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.-b). Hillsboro Sugarworks. Retrieved April 21, 2021, from https://hillsborosugarworks.com/pages/faqs

Maple Syrup 2019.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2021, from https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Pennsylvania/Publications/Survey_Results/2019/Maple%20Syrup%202019.pdf

Parks, M. S. (n.d.). How to Tap and Make Maple Syrup. 2.Parks—How to Tap and Make Maple Syrup.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2021, from https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/destinations/state_parks/maplesyrup_how.pdf

Heather Openshaw

Heather Openshaw is a Dual Degree MBA & MPA in Sustainable Solutions graduate student at Presidio Graduate School. Her main focus of study is information warfare's impact on society and sustainability initiatives. She loves writing, reading too many books at once and baby goats. She currently lives at the top of a mountain in a small town in West Virginia.

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