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11 Facts About Pure Maple Syrup You Should Know

That silky pour of golden liquid that drenches pancakes and waffles every Saturday morning is more than just a topping. It’s a natural sweetener with nutritional relevance. It’s a Vermont crop, tended to through the seasons. It’s a pure ingredient harvested from trees that are a lot older than we are. There are some facts about pure maple syrup that may have you appreciating the bottle on your table top a little more this weekend.

There is a whole story behind maple. From the Native Americans who first tapped Sugar Maple trees to the modern forestry crew who wade through hip high snow to tap each viable tree. Did you know you can tap a Sugar Maple its whole life? More on that later.

The robust taste of maple syrup is internationally revered. It’s loved for adding oomph to stacks of flapjacks, but it’s more than just a pancake topping. It adds dimension to baked goods. Whisk it into marinades and salad dressings for enticing salty sweet culinary confection. Versatility is maple syrup’s superpower. Whether straight from the bottle as an accoutrement or utilized in a recipe, being educated on what pure maple syrup actually is makes it taste that much sweeter.

Maple Syrup Grades

There’s a spectrum of gold when it comes to maple syrup. They’re referred to as grades, and their differences can play a part in their use. Grade A Golden Delicate has a soft amber tint and subtle maple flavor that is excellent over vanilla ice cream. Grade A Amber Rich has a solid maple flavor and is what most people reach for on the breakfast table. Grade A Dark Robust is an epicurean’s best friend. Its notes of caramel and brown sugar lend themselves to recipes.

Generally, the warmer the weather, the darker that syrup is produced. The darker the syrup color, the more robust flavor.

There’s a season for maple syrup

In Vermont, where 34°F can feel warm during a long winter, harvest season is thought of as summer and fall. But maple is on a different schedule. Tapping beings in late January and February and is dependent upon the weather. If the temperature is 15°F or below, the drill could crack the wood. Sap flows as the days warm up, which begins to happen in March. From there, the sap travels down the sap lines and into the sugarhouse where the water is boiled down until we’re left with natural maple syrup.

It takes a lot of sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup

That gallon of maple syrup didn’t come from just a single tree. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Real syrup comes from real trees

Sugar Maples are predominantly the tree species we tap for maple syrup, and they can be re-tapped each year for centuries. It takes about 40 to 50 years for a sugarbush to reach a productive size of which they can be sustainably tapped, according to Butternut Mountain Farm founder and forester, David Marvin.

But it’s not just the Sugar Maple you can tap. There is also the Red Maple, which produces a less sweet sap. There’s the Silver Maple and the Florida Maple, the Box Elder and Western Maple found in Oregon and the British Columbia. While you can tap any of these trees for syrup, Sugar Maples yield the sweetest crop.

Did you know that you can also tap Birch and Walnut trees? You may get a syrup that tastes more like “burnt caramel” but you could use these syrups in seltzers.

A lot of pounds are produced in a year

On average, 180 million pounds of maple syrup is produced worldwide every year. That’s… a lot of trees being tapped.

Maple syrup has nutritional value

Unlike table syrups, pure maple syrup has nutritional value. According to the USDA Nutrient Database and Canadian Nutrient File, as reported by the International Maple Syrup Institute, maple syrup contains riboflavin, manganese, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium with significant percentages that contribute to the recommended Daily Value. And maple syrup has a higher antioxidant value than cantaloupe and tomatoes.

It’s a pure product

The only thing that comes between the tree and your table is an evaporator and effort. Each year our forestry team treks into the sugarbush to tap thousands of trees. Once the sap starts flowing it arrives in the sugarhouse where it’s filtered. Through reverse osmosis the sap is concentrated, and then it’s boiled down until water has evaporated and we’re left with pure maple syrup. You won’t find an ingredient list the length of a novel on the back of this bottle.

Sap can be boiled into maple sugar

If you were to continue boiling sap down, you’d end up with maple sugar! Granulated maple sugar can be used in baking recipes with a 1:1 substitution ratio. Sprinkle on top of oatmeal, stir into tea, use in quick breads, or anywhere you’d like a touch of sweetness.

How long can you tap a maple tree? It’s whole life!

“A well cared for Sugar Maple can live from 200 to 300 years old,” says David Marvin. Tapping the same trees throughout its life is common. One thing to take into consideration is where you tap year after year. Allow enough time for the tapping hole to heal, about 10 to 15 years, and you can tap right back over that scar. It’s as though Sugar Maple trees are nature’s gift that keeps on giving.

There’s no expiration date

The trees can live to 300 years old, but can the syrup? “Maple syrup does have a best before – but no expiration,” Emma Marvin says. “The best before is determined by the package style. Two years for plastic for us, and three years for glass.”

Keep maple syrup in the fridge

There’s a proper storing method to ensure that your syrup is tasting as best as it can. “Once opened it should be refrigerated to prevent spoilage. Freezing is great too… keep a container that meets your weekly needs in the fridge and refill from the larger container in the freezer,” Emma advises. A bonus fun fact about maple syrup? It doesn’t freeze!

Now that you’re equipped with more maple knowledge, what will you be cooking with liquid gold this week?