EAST LANSING, Mich. — The holiday season is a great time to think about hobbies for the new year. Tapping maple trees is an early spring activity the entire family can participate in. Sugar maple trees are best, but all maple trees produce sap that can be used to make sweet tasting syrup. It takes at least 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Michigan State University Extension has a helpful bulletin publication to explain the process. You can also review a short article from MSU Extension at this link on the process for making syrup in your backyard.
There are lots of places to purchase supplies, such as your local hardware store, farm supply store or a specialty supplier such as TapMyTrees.com, Sugar Bush Supplies in Mason, MI or RMG in the Upper Peninsula. Maple syrup supplies would make great holiday gifts. In addition to taps and collection buckets, it is very important to have a food grade container to store the collected sap in, which must be kept at 40 degrees F or lower until it is boiled. Sap should be collected regularly as moisture can cause discoloration. This is a fun activity for kids of all ages.
For people interested in producing maple syrup for sale, you might want to view the recording of a “Getting Stated with Maple Syrup Production” webinar, which was produced for the MSU Extension Beginning Farmer Webinar Series. The University of Maine also offers some YouTube videos on maple syrup production. The Michigan Maple Syrup Association also provides valuable resources for commercial syrup producers.
Maple syrup can be frozen and used in many different recipes. One recipe that might get kids excited about collecting sap is to make maple syrup snow candy. This is super simple and only requires pure maple syrup, a candy thermometer and snow. Here is a link with directions. Perhaps this activity could be used in combination with a lesson on how American Indians collected and used sap.
Michigan State University Extension’s Community Food Systems Work Team works to provide resources to people interested in becoming more connected to their food. One way we do this is through the Michigan Fresh educational initiative. The Michigan Fresh Maple Syrup fact sheet provides information on storing, preserving and cooking with pure maple syrup.
— Kendra Wills, Michigan State University Extension Educator
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