Sweet and Sappy: The Story of Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a novelty that has been around since before the Europeans settled on Canadian soil. Discovered by Indigenous peoples, the practice of collecting maple sap from sugar maples is a tradition that has lived, and will continue to do so, for very many years. How exactly was this delicious treat discovered? An Iroquois tale tells that the sap was discovered when a hunter sliced his axe into a tree, and the sap trickled into a bowl underneath. His wife noticed the bowl and, thinking it was water, used to it cook a venison stew. It was a sweet and tasty surprise for this family- and so began the age old, culinary tradition of maple-cured meats (Historica, 2016).
Named by the Ojibwa, the “sugaring period” or “maple moon” takes place in early spring when the temperature warms and the sap begins to flow through the tree. The early process of collecting maple sap by aboriginals involved notching the trees and using a small, homemade wooden trough and wooden bowl laced to the ground to collect the sap that drips through the trough. This was the task of the Indigenous women, whom would each have their own sugar hut surrounding a bush of sugar maples. After collecting the sap, they would begin the slow and laborious process of evaporating the water from the sap to create the syrup. Why so long? Well, it takes about 35-40L of maple sap to make just 1L of maple syrup! That’s a lot of evaporated water! (Werner, 2016).
Upon arriving to North America, the French settlers observed the native practices and were able to improve upon them by using spouts and buckets to collect the sap, and iron pots over open fires to evaporate the water. Today, the collection process is generally the same, however new advances in technology now allows a less labour-intense process with the use of a vacuum tubing system. (Werner, 2016).
Sugar Maple trees are found in the Maple Belt, which is a hardwood forest that stretches through the Mid Western US through Ontario, Quebec, New England and the Maritimes. This being said, Canada produces approximately 80% of the world’s maple syrup, and 90% of that is produced in Quebec. During the height of the sugaring season, a maple tree only gives about 7% of its sap. Are you a tree lover? You need not worry- there is no long term damage done on the tree during this process- many tapped trees are over 100 years old! (Werner, 2016).
Maple syrup is a pure and natural sweetener filled with traces of various minerals which are essential to good nutrition. Just ¼ cup of maple syrup contains 100% of the daily value of manganese- a mineral which aids effective brain and nerve functions and plays a role in energy production and antioxidant defences! With such superior nutritional value, maple syrup is one of the Earth’s best natural sweeteners. Better yet, this sweet treat contains just 50 calories per tablespoon, which is fewer calories than both corn syrup and honey! Not to rain on the bees’ parade, but maple syrup also contains 15x the amount of calcium and 1/3 the amount of sodium than honey. (Sorry honey, I promise you’ve got many other redeeming qualities). (Pure Canada, 2016).
Whether served over pancakes and waffles, enjoyed in maple-leaf shaped candy, or used for baking purposes and in other fine cuisines, maple syrup is the sweetest way to get your sugar fix. Lucky for you, Willowtree Farm is able to serve all of your maple needs with our variety of maple syrups and treats. What makes our syrup extra sweet? Willowtree’s 100% pure maple syrup is produced here locally by the McKay family and friends- a family tradition which has been living for many years! So swing on by and indulge in one of Canada’s tastiest traditions- your tastebuds will thank you!
Maple Syrup Industry. Werner, Leo. H. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Retrieved from www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca
Maple Syrup Nutrition. Retrieved from www.purecanadamaple.com
Syrup. Historica Canada. Retrieved from www.historicacanada.com