Dietribes: Maple Syrup
• It takes four maple trees that are at least 40 years old over six weeks to produce 35 to 40 gallons of maple sap, which equates to one gallon of maple syrup (which sells for about $50).
• So what makes sap rise? "The sap we call maple syrup is a special case involving stem pressure," or the way that nutrients are distributed throughout the tree. "'In daytime in late fall through spring, when the leaves are not out, cells in the stem start metabolizing. The process, which is not fully understood, produces carbon dioxide, which collects in the spaces between the cells. The pressure forces the sap out when a hole is made.''
• Don't fake it! In 2011, a bill was introduced to make it a felony to sell fake maple syrup (meaning it is just pure cane sugar). Have you ever been fooled?
• Both the U.S. and Canada have strong ties to maple syrup: Vermont's state quarter and two Canadian coins depict sugar maples or parts of them. And as most of you know, the maple leaf is the national symbol of Canada, appearing on currency, flags, and government logos (and the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team).
• But the real King of Maple Syrup is the Province of Quebec, which produces more maple syrup than all other U.S. states and Canadian provinces combined (in 1998 they made over 4.9 million gallons!)
• To complete your syrup meal, try "Sugar on Snow," a traditional Vermont dish in which freshly boiled syrup is poured on late winter snow, creating a taffy-like consistency. It is traditionally eaten with a sour pickle to offset the sweet maple flavor. (I know some of you have had this! Share your experience with those of us in warm climates who do not understand snow, such as myself).
• Check out how the maple syrup event in New York (the persistent yet mysterious smell of maple syrup over four years) connects to the 311 service (plus a nifty off topic graph about when and what people use 311 for. I wish Atlanta had this!)
• And just like almost anything now, you can take a college class in it! Check out the course description for HONR 172 - Maple Syrup: The Real Thing at Alfred University:
Wanted: Someone with a background in meteorology, chemistry, botany, forestry, art, and cookery who is also a nature lover with lots of patience. Must enjoy long hours of hard work in the snow, cold, and mud. Even though this is an accurate description of a maple syrup producer, don't let it scare you! The method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today's culture of constant change; fundamentally it's the same process Native Americans used centuries ago. This class will explore the history of maple syrup production, discover the ins and outs of making syrup, create (and eat) some sweet confections, and take field trips to local producers, restaurants and festivals. No prior experience expected.
• Do you regularly buy real maple syrup? Have you ever gone to collect it from the tree? What do you love to put it on besides waffles? I've only had it a few times in my life but I love it!
Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.