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There are five major types of maple syrup trees that are famous across the world for their chief offering… you guessed it, maple syrup.
Here is all you need to know about your favorite breakfast condiment.
For the love of Maple Syrup… An introduction
Have you ever wondered where the maple syrup comes from? Well I did this morning at breakfast and thought to share. The research also taught me how the taste of the maple syrup is very specific to the kind of maple tree its from.
While a simple food item, maple syrup is one of the purest food sources that you could get, straight from the tree and to your table. The processing in between is kept to a minimum.
Which is why, a lot of aspects can affect the taste of the maple syrup that you are getting. One of the main aspects which affect the taste of the maple syrup is the tree source where you are getting your maple syrup from.
There are five main, obvious producers of maple syrup; the five different types of maple trees. Maple syrup is collected from any of these five trees by a process known as ‘tapping.’ The harvester simply ‘taps’ into the stem of any maple tree and collects the cell sap.
This cell sap is then used to make the maple syrup we all know and love. Of course, the cell sap of every tree will have a different concentration of all the components that go towards making the cell sap.
This difference in concentration is what gives each type of maple syrup its unique taste. For example, I prefer a mild taste and a hint of butterscotch that I found in Agave! You can try it out and share how you feel about it.
Well that’s breakfast for me; Now, back to business….
5 Trees that yield Maple Syrup
While maple syrup can be made from any maple tree, the taste of the syrup obtained from each of these five trees, sugar, red, black, box elder or silver differs.
So follow the guide to getting to know 5 types of maple syrup trees that truly bring out the taste of the tree syrup.
1. Boxelder Maple Tree
The Boxelder Maple Tree has a sugar content of 2.59%. This is the highest sugar content that could be found in any maple tree sap.
That said, the sugar content alone cannot act as a guarantor of the taste or whether the taste will be a hit with the masses.
The sap obtained from the Boxelder Maple Tree has a sort of leafy taste to it, not something that could be easily popular.
However, depending on your methods of changing the sap to syrup, the leaf-like taste could be eradicated to make syrup that is just as delicious as some of the more common flavors.
Distinguishing the Boxelder Maple Tree from all other maple trees is a relatively simple task. The difference is in the shape of its leaf.
Instead of the usual symmetric, lobed leaf that all the other maple trees have, the Boxelder’s leaf is more compound and clusters together.
Distinguishing the tree is essential. Given the leafy undertones in its sap, it is a great idea to make sure that you know the taste and are okay with it, before you tap into the tree to collect its sap.
2. Red Maple Tree
The Red Maple Tree flowers earlier than all other types of maple trees. Due to this, the sap of the Red Maple does not get enough time to mature or sweeten the way that the sap of other maple trees does.
This gives the syrup made from the Red Maple sap a less sweeter taste as compared to syrups made from other maple tree saps.
There is another drawback of the early flowering season: the harvesting time of the Red Maple sap is much shorter than the harvesting time of other trees’ sap.
Red Maple Trees may be distinguished by the color of their ‘samaras.’ The samaras, or double-winged seeds are also known as helicopters.
Further, the samaras of all other types of maple trees are green, especially during the spring season. However, the samaras on the Red Maple Tree are a bright shade of red, reflecting the name of the host tree.
One type of red maple tree is also known as the Japanese maple tree or Acer Palmatum. This is a particularly popular maple tree species amongst home growers.
It is not very difficult to maintain the plant and with the right maple syrup production technique, the Japanese maple syrup can be a real treat.
3. Silver Maple Tree
Silver Maples may be easily recognized by the silver hue that is visible on the underside of the silver maple leaf. The distinct silver coloring gives this tree its name.
One of the most common types of maple trees to be found across North America, the Silver Maple Tree is a very large species of the Maple family which also grows very quickly.
Pure maple syrup made from the sap of the Silver Maple Tree has a very distinctive undertone of butterscotch in the taste. The flavor is well-developed and is not considered bitter either.
4. Black Maple Tree
Research suggests that the Black Maple Tree is not really a separate species of the Maple tree, is actually just a sub-species of sorts of the Sugar Maple.
There are several pieces of evidence to support this theory, and the most important of these is that both the Black Maple as well as the Sugar Maple originate from the eastern side of North America.
The second major evidence to support this theory is the ability of all types of Maple trees to cross with other Maple trees of different species to form hybrids.
This theory then also lends more credence to the idea that the taste of the syrup produced from the sap of the Black Maple Tree is very similar in taste to the syrup produced from the sap of the Sugar Maple Tree. With tastes being so similar, what is the difference?
The major difference lies in the quantity of the sap that is produced. Sugar Maple Trees traditionally produce greater quantities of sap than the Black Maple Trees.
So if you are planning on getting into tree tapping for commercial purposes, or even to produce enough syrup to last your family the whole year through, choosing the Sugar Maple tree over the Black Maple would probably be a better option.
Though some maple producers prefer the distinct flavor associated with maple products made from black maple syrup trees. This is mostly due to the fact that the slight difference in flavor allows producers to enhance and evolve the flavor of the final product more freely.
5. Sugar Maple Trees
What exactly is it about the Sugar Maple Tree that makes it stand out so far above the crowd? Why is the Sugar Maple sap (and syrup) the ‘sap of choice’ for most of us? Well, the answer is actually not complicated.
The sugar maple sap has an average sugar concentration of 1.72%, a concentration that is far higher than what is found in most other maple saps.
The sugar content in Sugar Maples is between 2.59% to 3% also. That is nearly 2% more than the sugar concentration found in the saps of almost all the other maple trees.
Then again, both the yield as well as the flavor of the Sugar Maple sap are much better than the taste or yields of any other maple tree. All of these factors combine to make the Sugar Maple Sap and Syrup production the best of the lot.
How to get the most of your Maple Syrup Trees
Consider these figures: It takes around 40 gallons of Sugar Maple Sap to yield 1 gallon of Sugar Maple Syrup. Conversely, it takes approximately 60 gallons of Boxelder Maple Tree sap to produce 1 gallon of Boxelder Maple Syrup.
These figures can be daunting to say the least. And could be one reason why a lot of people opt for eating the raw sap rather than the maple syrup.
That, or they have developed a taste for the raw sap rather than the syrup form. It’s okay to eat the sap raw right out of the tree bark if you want.
But here are some tips to look out for in case you prefer the raw sap to the syrup.
The main tip is to look at the shavings from the bark when you are collecting the sap. As you start tapping trees to collect sap, it is essential you learn to understand the shavings that come off as you are drilling a hole in the tree trunk to tap into it.
If the wood shavings that are produced are a light color, then the sap is healthy and the tree is worth drilling into.
However, if the bark shavings are dark color, then the sap is certainly not worth it, and it would be better to avoid the tree altogether.
4 processes to follow when tapping
One idea to always keep in mind when tapping is that it is easy enough to tap from a maple tree that is already grown.
Planning to plant out another maple tree however, is not recommended because it can interfere in the growth of other species of trees.
Secondly, make sure you have gone through your state’s local governance pages on the kind of deciduous trees that are going near you and the steps that must be followed when tapping into these trees.
1. Best time to tap
Tap in early spring. This is considered the best time because the fluctuating temperatures at this time of the year allow for the sap to run more easily.
At night, temperatures will fall to near or below freezing point while during the day the 40 to 50 degrees temperature will be just ideal to make the sap run.
Again, March is the best month to tap into the maple syrup trees on your property, but you may start anytime between January till April should work out fine.
You should stop however, once the leaf buds begin to appear and night time temperatures no longer drop to freezing point.
In this regard, following the shifts in weather patterns within your geographical location so you can tap the trees at the right time.
2. Finding the right tree
No, you do not need to go looking around for the perfect match here.
All you need is a tree that is the right size which you can tap into. In this case, the Missouri Department of Conservation has set the limit at 4 feet tall, and with a tree bark diameter of at least 10 inches.
Trees that do not meet these size requirements are deemed too young to be tapped into.
Tapping into a tree that is too young could threaten the health of the tree itself, possibly killing it in the process.
You should also not make more than three holes for tapping into one tree, although the best sap is collected by drilling a single hole.
3. Placing the tap
The tap needs to be placed between 2 to 4 feet off the ground.
The spile, the spout that will help drain the sap, must be placed in a way that it is tilted upwards and should go at least a few inches into the tree… enough to start collecting the sap without adding undue stress on the tree.
This will allow the sap to follow into your collecting bucket more easily also.
4. Check back regularly
Do check back, at least once a day to ensure that your sap is being collected into your bucket alright.
The amount of sap being collected everyday can vary, so it is a great idea to make sure that your sap is not overflowing or there are no other issues with collection.
Another way of getting around this issue of constantly checking out your bucket is to ensure that you have a 3 to 4 gallons collection bucket so that you do not have to check back every few hours.
Now that you are ready to tap, you may feel that maybe it would be okay to tap a tree of another species altogether. And you wouldn’t be wrong either. However, the sap produced by maple tree species is the best and most plentiful that you could want.