Harvesting Maple Syrup
March 07, 2002
March is the prime month for collecting sap from sugar maple trees. In late winter and early spring, maple trees, and especially sugar maples, are loaded with the sweet liquid. Most sugar maples are found in the north central and northeastern US, and extended periods of cold weather are required to start the sap flowing. The photo above shows sap being extracted in a sugar tree farm in Ohio. Holes are bored into the trees, and the sap is simply allowed to flow (dribble) into buckets. Today, in many cases, buckets have been replaced by plastic tubing. Real maple syrup is a precious commodity, which can cost anywhere from $8 to $20 per quart! Although sap in most sugar maples is only about 2% sugar, some trees produce a sap with as much as 6% sugar. These trees yield three times as much syrup as a typical sugar maple, and efforts are being made by syrup producers to more readily identify them. For example, it seems that trees with more exposed crowns have a greater percentage of sugar than those trees blocked from the Sun by neighboring stands.