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Latest Developments in Maple: Sap Sensor Can Likely Predict Flavor

Sap has been harvested from wild grown maple trees and made into maple syrup for centuries, but still mysteries remain. Research is constantly being conducted to reveal what we don’t know about this natural wonder: what exactly are the nutritional benefits of real maple syrup? What factors influence sap yield? How do microbes affect maple syrup production? And now, how sugarmakers might avoid a bad batch of maple syrup.

An ever-changing environment stirs questions about how climate change will affect everything from maple production to the flavor of syrup. A new tool has been developed by a team from Montreal that could potentially predict a batch of sap’s taste before it’s boiled.

Towards the end of a sugaring season, as the weather warms, sap can produce off-flavor syrup, tasting “buddy”, like chewing on a twig. Jean-Francois Masson and his colleagues at the University of Montreal presented a portable tool at the Canadian Society for Chemistry that would test the sap for off flavor before it’s set into production. This new test presents the potential to have a greater grip on quality control at the sugarbush.

In 2020, Masson and his team developed a sensor to foretell the commercial grade according to Physics. They then tested 1800 syrup samples across Quebec and “found that droplets of off-flavor syrup samples caused the color of their gold nanoparticle solution to change from blue to red.” The color change was due to “clumping of nanoparticles induced by molecules in the off-flavor samples.”

The team then tested 30,000 maple syrup samples to detect what molecules caused an off-flavored batch. With this collected data, the team turned their attention – and sensor – to sap. Could it predict the fate of flavor? 600 sap samples were tested alongside their syrup counterpart and a connection was drawn between the color indicator of the sap and the syrup. Depending on the color indicator on the sensor, a droplet of sap could likely determine the outcome of flavor.

According to the published study’s findings, “An ordinal mixed-effect model was shown to accurately predict the amino acid concentrations and the most likely grading class of maple syrup from the plasmonic tongue’s response. Taken together, the plasmonic tongue with the mathematical model could serve as a predictor of the output quality of maple syrup from maple sap at the production site.”

As maple research develops new technologies to support sugarmakers in creating the highest-quality product and streamlining systems, we remain committed to learning the latest in its advancement to ensure we’re bringing the best maple syrup to your table.