Rites Of Spring

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Photo © Chiot’s Run / Flickr

A seasonal distraction, more than welcome, and we thank Cool Green Science for featuring Ken Keffer’s primer on North American tree-tapping:

Tree Tapping Isn’t Just for Maples

March is tree tapping season across the upper Midwest, New England, and southern Canada. As the cardinals start to sing again in the northwoods, the long-dormant timbers are also responding to the first signs of early spring.

Sap is stored in the roots over winter, but as temperatures begin to rise, it starts flowing through the xylem layer of the tree.

For a number of species, the sap flow becomes a sweet treat and a renewable resource for those working the sugarbush.

Photo © Eamon Mac Mahon

Tapping Throughout History

The exact origins of making maple syrup are a bit of a mystery. It is clear that a number of indigenous tribes in northeastern North America were utilizing this natural resource, and the process predates European settlers.

One theory is that venison meat was boiled in tree sap. Hot rocks might have been added to vats of sap to facilitate steaming. Another idea is that icy layers were removed from sap, which concentrated the sugars in the liquid that remained.

Historically sap was consumed directly. This maple water is occasionally seen in stores today, but the trend hasn’t caught on nearly as much as syrup.

Maple sugar was also a product of historical importance. By the mid 1800s maple was mostly replaced by cane as the dominant source of sugar.

Today maple syrup continues to be an expanding industry. Quebec is the leading producer of maple syrup. The province is responsible for 70 percent of the world supply…

Read the whole article here.

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