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Comprehensive Guide to Tapping a Tree for Maple Syrup
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Comprehensive Guide to Tapping a Tree for Maple Syrup

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Step-by-step instructions for how to harvest and process maple sap yourself.

Step-by-step instructions for how to harvest and process maple sap yourself.

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  • 1. What is maple syrup and damaging the trees health, by boring a hole into the trunk and collecting some of sap that drips out.when should it be harvested? Historically, First Nations people had been harvestingMaple syrup is obtained from the sap of various kinds maple sap in early spring for hundreds of years, andof maple trees, including red maple, sugar maple, their preparation technique involved boiling down theblack maple and bigleaf maple. Essentially, any kind sap to obtain the rich, sticky syrup. To this day, thisof maple tree can be tapped for sap, but the sugar is still the best and most natural preparation tech-maple generates the sweetest of all syrups, with a nique. Alternately, sap can be consumed in its raw2% or higher concentration of sugar in the sap. form, as it is a highly nutritious, sugary beverage. Other trees that can also be tapped, aside from maple, What tools are required for include walnut, hickory, tapping maple trees? sycamore and sweet birch trees. Trees that are suited • spiles for tapping should be at • metal hooks off which to least 1 1/2 feet in diameter, hang the buckets have full and healthy-look- • hammer ing crowns, and must re- • buckets with small holes or handles ceive a lot of sunlight. they can hang by • brace and bit • 5 gallon pail (optional)Maple trees can be easily • large plastic container (a garbage can works)recognized by their distinc- • evaporatortively shaped leaves andtheir impressive stature. * Spiles are collecting spouts that are to be fitted into the drilled hole, and they can be either purchased from a local store or made at home. A 3/8" metal tube is usually Maple trees produce sugar-rich a good choice, as it can be cut into 2 1/2" segments. sap by storing starch in their trunks during the winter, which Note: Copper tubes should be avoided, as they are is later converted to sugar, and poisonous to plants. ultimately infused into the sap during early spring. Some of the sap can be collected without Brought to you by RawFoodHealthWatch.com
  • 2. To adapt the tube for tapping purposes, one endshould be flared so as to allow for easy sap collection A small upward slope to the holeinto the bucket. will ensure that the sap flows into the bucket with ease, with the helpHow do I tap the tree? of gravity. Moreover, the hole should be drilled on the side of theWeather conditions influence the amount of sap you trunk that receives the most sunwill be able to collect. The maple sap only begins to exposure, and it should not be lo-flow after the ground thaws, and a few sunny days cated below any lump or defect, ashave literally liquefied the sap within the trees once these may obstruct the natural flow route of sap.again. The sap flow stops every time temperaturesdrop below the freezing point. Sap flows for about a 2. As you begin to drillmonth, during the warm season, and it is best to be into the trunk, you maycollected in late afternoons. Holes that are drilled too notice that the barksoon, before the sap starts flowing, will be quickly shavings are damp. Thishealed by the tree, and will have to be re-drilled. only occurs if the sap has started flowing, and it can be used as a signHow many taps can I have on one maple tree? to know whether or not you should continue drilling,The number of taps you can put on a maple tree de- or give it a few more days.pends on its trunk circumference. A healthy mapletree with the trunk circumference of 31 to 53 inches 3. If you have purchased theshould have only a single tap. Larger maple trees, with spiles, a a 3/8" piece shouldcircumferences of 57 to 75 inches can support two best be used, and a 3 gallontaps, while trees with circumferences of more than 79 bucket can be hung from it,can withstand 3 taps. although you can use tubes and buckets of different sizesSteps to tapping a maple tree: as well. Smaller plastic bot- tles and containers can also 1. The tapping hole should be be used, although they need drilled approximately 3 feet to be checked more fre- from ground surface and should quently, especially on days of reach about 1.5-2 inches deep heavy sap flow. into the tree trunk. Brought to you by RawFoodHealthWatch.com
  • 3. 4. After you have drilled the hole and cleaned out the shavings, insert the spile through the eye of a hook, If everything is done cor- allowing the hook to face outwards, so that the rectly, a tapped tree bucket can be hung from it. should look like this: 5. Using a good hammer, tap the spile well into the drilled hole. 8. The final step in producing maple syrup is evaporation. A successfully tapped maple tree hole should look like this: To boil the sap, a shallow, wide pan can be used, as the greater surface area of the wider container ensures6. Hang the bucket that the water will evapo- from the hook. rate more rapidly. Ideally, and for the best tasting maple syrup - with a faint smoky flavor, the sap should be boiled over open wood fire. If you dont have a hook and the spile is long Note that as the water evaporates, a lot of steam is enough, you can simply produced, so the sap should be boiled in a well venti- place a large bucket on the lated room. You will know that the syrup is ready when ground and let the sap col- most of the water has evaporated, and the remaining lect into it. product has a thick, sticky consistency. Near the end of the evaporation process, it is important to keep your7. Cover the bucket so eyes on the syrup, as it may burn badly if left on fire that dust, rain water for too long. When it is finished, the syrup should be and other impurities do boiling at around 219°. Heating it to very high temper- not gather on the sap. atures (234°F) will enable you to produce maple sugar A lid with a sliding wire instead. can be used. Brought to you by RawFoodHealthWatch.com
  • 4. If you want to con- sume the sap raw, in- stead of turning it into syrup, keep it at temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.Higher temperatures will cause the sap to spoil.Since tapping a hole into the tree does produce awound in its trunk, following the correct tapping proce-dures and harvesting only from healthy specimens willallow most trees to recover within a year. This is whata healed tap hole looks like after nearly a year haspassed:Last but not least, enjoy your homemade maple syrup! Brought to you by RawFoodHealthWatch.com

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