Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S.A. Maple syrup is that thick natural sweetener that North Americans pour over their pancakes, waffles, French toast or oatmeal porridge. It has a slightly darker color than honey, but slightly thinner. Again, it was the indigenous people who taught the white settlers how to harvest and prepare the syrup. They realized that the sap from maple trees was nutritious and had natural energetic qualities.
You might be familiar with the maple leaf, because it is in the middle of the Canadian flag. There are many species of maple trees, and most grow to a height of 10 – 15 meters. In cold climates like Vermont and Canada, the trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter comes. At the end of winter or the beginning of spring, the starch is converted into sugar that rises as sap. Native Americans used to collect the clear sap from the trees using stone or wooden instruments. Nowadays, people drill the trees, and then process the sap by boiling it into a concentrated amber-colored syrup. It must be boiled for a very long time at a controlled temperature. “Sugar Season” lasts until spring weather comes, and the temperature warms enough so that the sap is no longer sweet and the tree’s biological process begins to produce spring leaves. Maple syrup production farms are called “sugarbushes” or “sugarwoods”.
Usually, a maple tree has to be between 30 – 40 years of age to begin to be tapped. The average tree produces between 35 – 50 liters of sap per season, and the trees are usually tapped until they are more than 100 years old. It takes about 45 liters of sap to produce 1 liter of maple syrup, so that’s why it is so expensive.
Nowadays, Canada produces more than 80% of the world’s maple syrup, mostly in the province of Quebec. Maple syrup is graded according to quality and highly controlled, but there is a black-market trade for the syrup in Quebec.
Charlie has a sweet tooth, so of course we visited a Vermont sugarbush. He prefers Vermont maple syrup, the same as many of you readers prefer craft beer or craft cachaça.
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