Though delayed by an exceptionally harsh winter, sap will soon be flowing from certain types of maple trees in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States, sap that can be harvested and turned into maple syrup. Sugar maples have the highest sugar content (2%), but the sap from black, red, silver, and ash leafed maple is also suitable.
The harvesting of maple sap has been going on for a long, long time. Maple trees were first tapped by Native Americans, who used tomahawks to cut into the trunks in such a way as to direct the flowing sap into bark containers. Once collected, the sap was boiled in pots to make syrup, a practice European settlers soon took up.
There are several legends about how Native Americans themselves first came to know about maple syrup. My favourite is the one that credits a squirrel. According to the Iroquois, a young boy saw a squirrel run up a maple tree and bite the branches to make the sap run out. Over the next few days, it went back again and again to lick at the crystallized syrup, which the boy then himself, and realized he’d found a new food source. And a tasty one, at that.
It takes forty litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup and six to eight weeks of cold nights and warm days are required for a successful maple harvest. Most (85%) of this exclusively North American product comes from Canada, and much of that comes from the province of Québec, where people often hold maple sugar festivals (see list below) or go to cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) to enjoy maple sugar products and activities. Canada’s other maple syrup provinces are Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, while in the USA, the top producing maple syrup states are Vermont, New York, and Maine.
Maple Syrup Festivals In Canada
And to hear a Moxy Fruvous rendition of Pete Seeger’s “Maple Syrup Time”, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9417iVH4xQ#t=118