Maple Syrup; How it's collected
Well it's Maple syrup time! Did you know that maple syrup is produced in a very small area of the world? Southern Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI & quite a few northern states below these provinces produce 99% of the worlds maple syrup, Canada holding 71% of this total with Quebec being the highest producer in the world.
Maple syrup is made from the sugar within the sap of the sugar maple, red maple, black maple or other species of maple trees. Maple trees become dormant when winter & cold temperatures begin (like most deciduous trees). Come spring is when the trees start to release sap, a natural process of the tree getting ready for spring. The temperature has to be around 5 degrees Celsius during the day for the sap to begin flowing and drop below 0 degrees Celsius during the night. This is one of the reasons why the area of maple sap collection is very small, the temperatures have to be just right. Once is becomes constantly warm, the trees will start to bud (leaves begin to grow) and sap collecting comes to an end!
So, how do maple syrup producers collect maple tree sap?
First trees need to be tapped, this means we drill a small hole into the tree and insert a plastic tip. The sap will flow out of this hole and into the plastic tip which is attached to the line that carries the sap to the collection bin.
There are three ways we can collect sap; 2 use the long blue lines connecting multiple trees, using natural flow from gravity or a vacuum pump system to draw the sap out of the trees. The 3rd is the very old fashioned use of buckets.
At Coopers we use a gravity system. Our sugar bush is located on a slopped hill, we have a line at the top that connects the trees all the way to the bottom where the collection bins are located. The sap is pulled from the trees by natural gravity and follows the lines all the way to the bottom. The advantages of this system is that we don't have to purchase an expensive vacuum system to draw sap, we don't have to lug buckets around, and the lines can stay up for about 6 years before we have to replace them. The disadvantages is that without a vacuum machine, we do not get as much sap from the trees, the vacuum literally sucks the sap out and results in higher yields.
A vacuum pump system looks exactly like ours, however, at the end is a machine that will pull the sap out of the trees via the long blue lines. This is great for sugar bushes that are located on flat ground and it results in more sap being collected.
Old fashioned buckets are what you see in most maple syrup advertisements, a bucket hanging off of a tree with sap dripping into it. This is a very slow way of collecting sap and you have to continually dump the buckets when they get full. This takes a lot of labour on a large scale size but it is very practical for some one who collects from a few trees in their back yard.
Anyone can collect sap! If you have sugar maple trees on you property, you can tap into them and start collecting in the spring. Be sure to do your research on finding the right trees and how to properly tap a tree. If successful, it will look like water in your buckets. Take a sip, it will be a little sweet!
Fun Fact: Aunt Jemimas & other popular Syrups found in grocery stores are NOT ALWAYS Maple syrup. Aunt Jemimas for example, is corn syrup. They both have the same idea which is using the sugar from a plant to make a gooey delicious topping, so try them both as they have much different tastes! The pancake correlation is what tends to make people think they are the same thing. Be sure you read the label :)
Just a little farm for thought for you all on where your maple syrup comes from!