April 10, 2012
Photographer: Annie Dannemuller
Summary Author: John Stetson
The photo above shows Annissa Nichola, a student at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, tasting maple syrup in the school's sugarhouse. Throughout the winter, sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum) have stored starch in sapwood. As temperatures warm to above 40 F (4.5 C) in the daytime, the stored starches are turned into sugars and flow as tree sap. The sugar season was a few weeks early this year since the winter and early spring weather was unusually warm. When buds start to open on sugar maple trees, "sugaring off" is over. There's a lot that goes into making maple syrup from sap. After tapping trees and collecting the sap, it needs to be boiled while carefully adding a little butter to keep the sugar molecules from crystallizing, monitoring the temperature so that it doesn't burn and monitoring the specific gravity to compare its density to a specific target. Sugaring off is one way students can make a connection to the Earth.
There's a little interesting history related to maple syrup. In the years leading to the U.S. Civil War, abolitionists evidently made a conscious choice to use maple syrup as a sweetener instead of molasses and sugar cane. The latter items were products of slave labor. In addition, during World War II, maple syrup was used as a substitute for sugar at a time of rationing. Recently, scientists have suggested that not all sugars are equal and that maple syrup may have health benefits. Photo taken on March 15, 2012.
Photo details: Make: NIKON CORPORATION; Model: NIKON D300; Focal Length: 10.5mm; F Number: f / 4.5; Exposure Time: 1/80; ISO Speed Ratings: 200; Metering Mode: Center Weighted Average; Exposure Program: Manual; Light Source: Unknown; Flash: Flash did not fire; Orientation: 1; Color Space: 65535; Software: Adobe Photoshop CS4 Macintosh.