Thursday, 23 April 2015
It seemed that just as soon as the syrup season started, it was over. March and April are the months the time that sap flows from the maple trees, and this year it went from March 15th to April 17th for us. Sap needs these specific conditions that the spring offers us in order to flow out of the trees. The day temperatures need to be above freezing temperature and the night temperatures need to be below freezing temperatures to give a nice fluctuation in temperature. The cooler periods provide “suction” or “negative pressure” which draws the water into the roots while the warmers periods provide “positive pressure” which causes the sap to flow out of the tree through a wound or a tap hole.
The syrup happened to be flowing right when things got busy for me at University with exams. I was able to help my dad tap the trees and get them set up, but the rest was all up to my family. My dad and brother collected the sap every day and my mom did all of the boiling.
Ken Fosty, the professional arborist that gave the presentation that got me into syrup production, suggested that I start out with 20 taps. This means that I should start with 40 because… why not. It’s a good thing I did because only 20 of them produced. The ones that did not produce were perhaps too small (a tree needs to be at least 8 inches diameter and some were border-line too small) or were not in a sunny or open enough area to catch enough sunlight and warmth. Next year I will be more efficient at picking trees.
How do you tell if it’s a maple tree without any leaves? The branches are a give-away. As you can see from the picture, the braches or buds sprout from the same node and opposite from each other. Other trees have alternating branches going back and forth. There is also a picture of the maple flowers that I took on April 23rd below. Maple trees also tend to have new branches that are red in color.
It is suggested that boiling of the sap be undertaken outside because boiling inside could make for a very humid house (mind you one that smells like syrup). We tried various methods outside but the wind got the best of us and all boiling was moved to the kitchen stove. With the overhead oven fan on full blast, it was perfect. It takes a lot of sap boiling to make a decent product with 40 liters of water to boil off to make 1 liter of syrup. Next winter I would like to make some sort of outdoor boiler system for kicks. Overall my parents didn't mind the whole process and said that they would do it again next year. Which is good for me because this stuff is delicious.