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
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.