Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 4
   March 2010
 
   What Is It?
 

What Is It?

As spring approaches in eastern Canada, two traditions are repeated each year. The first is a rather sad and somber affair, with the recurring elimination of the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL team from a successful run at the coveted Stanley Cup. The other is the fascinating ritual of tapping the maple (Acer spp.) and the creation of treasures that tantalize the palates of those who are fortunate enough to have access to maple products, be it at the sugar bush (cabane à sucre), candy store or in one's home.

As early as 1540 European explorers, travelling on the St. Lawrence River, observed the abundance of the North American maple forests and by 1606 the maple syrup process of sap collection and subsequent evaporation had been fully recorded. Under the guidance and generosity of the indigenous peoples, the process of harvesting maple sap has turned into a large, sustainable industry in parts of Canada and the United States.

Early explorers and settlers noticed that the indigenous population slashed certain trees and then collected the sap. The harvesting process evolved, with producers boring small holes into trees and inserting a device (spile) that allowed the sap to be collected. This less invasive system limited damage to the maple, so the tree's health was not compromised as it was by the hack-and-slash method.

The collected liquid was then boiled down to create sweet syrup or cake that was used to sweeten foods or eaten as candy. Once discovered by the settlers, it was thought that its commercial production might lessen dependence on sugar cane products from the Caribbean.

 
 
             
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