Driving the back roads of northern New England in the middle of winter can be a challenging endeavor. If you happen to come upon a bright sunny day when you
are able to venture into wooded areas, pay particular attention
to the trees as you drive along. You will likely soon notice
a small bucket hanging from the occasional tree, or perhaps
tubes connected to 5-gallon pails on the ground. You may even
notice an entire network of white or blue tubing connecting
dozens of trees together, all leading to a large container.
These are all signs that the ‘sugaring season’ has started and
the process of tapping the trees, collecting the sap, and then
boiling it to make maple syrup, has begun.
No one knows for certain how long people have been making
maple syrup. There are written records relating to maple
sugaring in North America as far back as the mid-16th century.
While advances in the equipment and process have been made,
the basic sequence remains the same: gather sap from the tree
and boil it until the water has evaporated to the point where it
has a sugar concentration of approximately 66%. Maples are
tapped in other regions of the world, as well as birch trees in
Alaska, Russia and parts of Scandinavia. In South Korea, maple
sap is consumed traditionally as a drink called gorosoe, rather
than boiled into syrup. Quebec is the world’s largest producer
of maple syrup, accounting for upwards of 70% of the world’s
supply. Vermont is the largest producer in the United States.
by Steve Carlson