Nobody knows who first discovered how to make syrup and sugar from the sap of a maple tree. However, we know that maple syrup has always been an important commodity in the economy and has made a delicious addition to a variety of foods! Production in the maple syrup industry is generally measured in the number of taps with most official “producers” having at least 10,000 taps! So how do you get this fun and exciting process started? Follow these easy steps and you’ll have fresh maple syrup all spring long!
- Identify and mark your tree: First, determine whether your tree is one of the 150 species of maple world-wide. The best time to identify a maple tree is in the summer or fall months when it is in full leaf. Once you’ve identified the tree, choose a healthy tree that is at least 30cm in diameter with a full canopy of strong healthy branches. It’s a good idea to tie marking tape around your tree so you can easily find it in the spring. The tapping season varies depending on the region, but it typically starts in early March and lasts until mid-April.
- Drill the taphole: No matter which drill you choose, the procedure is the same. The only variation is the size of the drill you’ll need. It’s suggested to use a wood-boring drill bit and mark it with tape or a marker at 3.8 cm from the end. This mark will show you when it’s time to stop drilling so you only drill into the sapwood. Be sure to pick a spot on the tree trunk that’s about 1.2 meters off the ground. If you’re using a bucket to collect the sap, make sure to have tubing is long enough to reach the ground. Then drill slightly upward into the tree and remember not to go deeper than 3.8 cm.
- Insert the spile: Once you’ve drilled your hole, insert the spile, gently tap it in with a hammer, and attach your bucket to collect the sap. The tap can stay in the tree for the whole season!
- Collect sap: Each day, you can come back to the same tree to collect sap. Be sure to boil your sap in order to prevent bacteria from growing. As the sap cooks it will begin to darken and become sweet. It’s a good idea to transfer your syrup to a smaller pan to prevent scorching. If you’re not able to boil your sap every day, it can be chilled for a few days until you’ve collected enough to cook.
- Remove tap: At the end of the season, when it’s no longer chilly, it will be time to pull out the taps. Always remember to clean your equipment and store it somewhere clean and dry until next year!
Enjoy the outdoors this spring and try tapping a maple tree! Not only is the tapping process quick and simple, but you are also guaranteed a delicious reward for your work!