When you hear “maple,” do you know what that means?

Maple is the sap from the sugar maple tree (acer saccharum). Although sap can be obtained from other species of maple trees, maple producers are largely focused on the sugar maple.

Maple production can be classified as one of nature’s wonders. Did you know…?

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  • Maple sap cannot be collected at just any time of the year.

  • Alternating episodes of freezing and thawing cause sap to move (flow) within a sugar maple tree.

  • This ‘flow’ only happens for a few weeks in the spring and fall.

  • Spring is when most maple syrup is produced, because weather conditions are generally more favorable for sap flow. Some limited studies of autumn maple production have been done to determine if more economical use can be made of our maple forests. 

What makes the sap flow?

  • Weather must warm to above freezing temperatures for sap to flow.

  • A very rapid rise in temperature (from 25°F to 45°F) will enhance sap flow considerably.

  • While temperatures remain above freezing, sap will flow at a steadily declining rate for approximately 8 to 15 hours.

  • When it refreezes at night and thaws again the next day, the sap flow will resume at the peak rate and slowly diminish to nearly no flow by the end of the 8 to 15 hour period.

  • Intermittent flow periods will continue for as long as the freeze/thaw cycle lasts.

  • Once the weather stays above freezing and trees begin to bud, the sap flow changes composition and is no longer usable. This signals the end of maple production for the season.

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How does sap become maple syrup?

Although timing and techniques may differ, the concept is the same:

  • Sap must be of the correct chemical composition to be collected.

  • Once collected, water must be removed until the desired concentration of sugar remains.

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What makes maple syrup production a success?

  • Preparation - know your maple trees and where they are; have the necessary equipment prepped and ready to go

  • Collection - collect sap daily as conditions permit; keep it clean and cool

  • Processing - process sap by boiling and reverse osmosis (RO) methods daily or as needed; filter and bottle the finished product

  • Cleanup - once the season ends, clean collection systems and processing equipment to prepare for the next sugaring season

For more details on how to make maple syrup click here.