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 or cake 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 has not necessarily proved true today, the process of harvesting maple sap has turned into a large, sustainable industry in parts of Canada and the United States.
The sap spile (shown) is basically a tube-like unit inserted into a hole bored into a maple tree. It may also have a hook to hold a sap bucket. Some older and larger trees can have up to four taps inserted at one time.