Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 1
   February 2011
   What Is It?

What Is It?

As spring approaches in eastern Canada, a tradition is repeated each year: the fascinating ritual of tapping the maple (Acer spp.). The process results in treasures that tantalize the palates of those who are fortunate enough to have access to maple products.

As early as 1540, European explorers travelling on the St. Lawrence River (which forms part of the international border between New York State and the province of Ontario and crosses through both that province and Quebec) observed the abundance of North American maple forests. By 1606, the process of making maple syrup by collecting sap and subsequently evaporating it had been recorded.

These early explorers and settlers noticed that the indigenous population slashed certain trees to collect the sap. The harvesting process evolved, with producers boring small holes into trees and inserting a device that allowed the sap to be collected. This less-invasive system limited damage to the maple, so that the tree's health was not compromised as it was by the hack-and-slash method. The collected liquid was boiled down to create syrup used to sweeten foods or to eat as candy. It was thought that its commercial production might lessen dependence on sugar-cane products from the Caribbean. Although that didn't necessarily prove true, the process of harvesting maple sap did turn into a large, sustainable industry in parts of Canada and the United States.

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