Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Making Manitoba Maple Syrup, Part 1

It must be Spring - people around here are starting to make maple syrup!  The sap is rising and, as our friend Dave Barnes says: "The trees are bleeding for us!"  Now, first you must know that around here nobody is tapping sugar maples (Acer saccharum); the true sugar maple just doesn't grow well here, we're a little too cold and too dry.  They are hard to get established as they seem to suffer severe die back during a lot of winters.  Around here people are tapping Manitoba maples or box elders (Acer negundo).  Our neighbours Amanda and Ed are experienced 'tappers' and they describe the sugar maple syrup as having a slight vanilla flavor not apparent in Manitoba maple syrup.  I have always thought of our local syrup as having a hint of an herbal taste.  The point being it's not the same, but it's still darn good.

I was at Dave's place yesterday and he's got a lot of trees tapped throughout his wood lot.  Dave is, of course, our local Green Party candidate, so he's a little busy and I just hope he finds the time to cook his syrup.  I was down to visit Amanda and Ed today and had a great chance to learn a few things.   Ed tapped a tree while I was there: drill a hole (looked to be an inch deep, I forgot to ask) and tap in the special spigot.  Really, it was that easy!  Within seconds a slow drip started.  The sap coming out is crystal clear and tastes, well, like nothing.  This really surprised me; it's not sweet in the slightest and has virtually no taste, maybe a faint, grassy note.  Even more surprising to me is that a five gallon bucket of this clear liquid will be boiled down to a mere pint of golden goodness.  No wonder it's a little pricey - that's a lot of work for a pint!  How fast the sap is produced is totally weather dependant - cooler days it is flowing more slowly.  This doesn't hurt the tree because it's only tapped in one of the many 'veins' that carries the sap.  Ed told me that he had heard that some established sugar maples that were not getting tapped as usual due to poor travelling conditions and  were bursting from an excess of sap in the trunks.  Isn't Mother Nature amazing!


  1. Where is your farm? We are tapping Manitoba maples in Edmonton with sap for a few days but the sap seems to have stopped flowing so wonder if it is to late or if we did something wrong.

  2. Hi, Judy; We're in Brandon, Manitoba. Knowing what I do about Edmonton's weather (sister Keltie is there) I think you may be late! I'm no expert, but I do know a little about trees. Sap is stored in the roots for winter and then 'rises' which is when we tap. Edmonton has been a little nicer for a few weeks. Temperature is everything for sap flow!