Now that it’s officially spring, you can really feel the difference. Minute by minute, hour by hour, the days are longer and the air is slowly warming—but nights are still frigid, with temperatures often plunging below freezing. For us hardy Canucks, it’s maple syrup season and that means we’ve survived another winter!
Fact: Canada produces an astonishing 71 per cent of the world’s supply of this golden elixir and we export it to approximately 50 countries worldwide. No wonder tourists love to take that little maple-leaf-shaped bottle back home with them!
But why do we adore this sugary, sweet liquid so? It’s the perfect complement to a stack of super-fresh, fluffy pancakes right off the griddle, but it can also be used to sweeten up your fruit, your cereal or even your tea. Pour it over ice cream for a yummy dessert. It can even jazz up a cocktail!
Here’s the science: maple sap can only be collected from maple trees during a very short time period, when temps are below freezing at night and daytime temperatures inch to the plus 2s and over. At night, the sap leaves the roots of the tree and rises up into the upper branches of the tree, then during the day, as warm sunshine produces heat within the tree, it flows down, with the help of gravity, into the trunk of the maple where it can run out of waist-high taps.
Sugar bush farmers of the past could not possibly have imagined the new, technologically advanced methods used by today to collect the maple sap. 100 years ago, sap was collected from individual buckets hanging from spouts on each tree and poured into a large tank moved around by horse-drawn sleigh. Today, farmers use sturdy plastic tubing that can connect to each tree, drawing the sap into reverse-osmosis machines. These machines save valuable time by removing most of the water from the sap before it even arrives at the processing area.
This is the perfect time to experience how maple syrup is made up close. Check out one of these nearby events.
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival, held at four different locations scattered throughout the province, takes place until April 7. Enjoy demonstrations, wagon rides, activities, and of course, pancakes and real maple syrup. Maplesyrupfest.com
Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Maple Weekend, April 6 to 7. Sugar makers invite you to share in the centuries-old craft of maple sugaring. Mapleweekend.ca
Or try cooking with maple syrup! We’ve provided a delicious recipe, courtesy of Michael’s Back Door Restaurant, on page 44 of this edition. For more recipes and maple syrup ideas (including cocktails!), visit www.looklocalmagazine.com/mississauga.
Fun Facts: It takes about 40 litres of maple sap to make one litre of maple syrup.
• Maple sap is harvested from only three species of maple trees: sugar maples, black maples and red maples.
• 60 ml of pure maple syrup (about 4 tablespoons, the amount you might have on a small stack of pancakes) contains 100% of the daily recommended allowance of the mineral manganese.
• The antioxidant levels in 60ml of maple syrup are comparable to that of a banana or a serving of broccoli.
• Maple forests are found mainly in the northeast quarter of North America, and the trees thrive in a specific pocket from Ontario and Quebec in Canada and from Minnesota over to New England in the United States. Smaller maple forests may also be found as far south as Kentucky and Virginia.
By Ilana Clamp
Photography by vanessa jeakins
Herridge’s Fresh Farm Market