By Carolyn Fankhauser
Master gardener volunteer
Can you make it? Yes, anyone who can boil water and lives in an area with the right climate can make it. Have a maple tree or two? Then, go for it.
Late winter and early spring is maple season here in the Mahoning Valley.
If you have access to a few maple trees, whether growing in your yard or in a woodland, you can produce your own maple syrup and even enough extra to use as gifts for family or friends. It is easy, great fun and an educational family activity.
Maple syrup can be produced on a small scale with little equipment, but there are some standard items required to do the job correctly.
You may already have many of these items or can buy them at a local store. Others, such as collecting spouts (called spiles), collecting buckets or bags and finishing filters, are unique to maple production.
Sap to produce maple syrup can be collected from any native species of maple, but sugar maples are the first choice. Making maple syrup from sap requires boiling off water until the desired sugar concentration is achieved.
Sugar and black maple usually have considerably higher sap sugar content than red and silver maple, resulting in less sap, less time and less energy required to produce a given volume of syrup.
With backyard sugaring, one of the things you have to do is plan ahead, because the amount and type of equipment you will need depends a good deal on the quantity of syrup you are planning to make.
Figuring out which trees to tap, when to tap them and where and how to drill the hole and set the spout are important parts of backyard sugaring. If you do these things carefully, the amount and quality of sap you’ll get will increase, and the syrup-to-sap ratio will be higher, which means less boiling. The basics are: locate trees, tap, collect sap, boil, bottle, enjoy.
I have to say there is something magical about sugarin’ time. It is that special part of late winter and early spring when the temperature drops below the freezing point at night but climbs well above freezing during the day, pushed up by a sun, which is now climbing higher in the sky, getting up earlier in the morning and lasting longer in the afternoon.
Maybe it’s simply the magic of converting sweet water, as the Indians used to call it, into delicious golden syrup. But whatever it is, it’s there.
Hope you give syrup-making a try, because backyard maple sugaring is fun.
Join me to learn more about making syrup in your backyard. We will go over the whole process for beginners, with snacks and recipes as a bonus, on Monday at OSU Extension office in Canfield.
For those who want to make syrup on a slightly larger scale, OSU Extension is co-sponsoring a three-hour class. Participants will enjoy a lunch at the Sugar House, including Maple Snow, and a tour of the production facility at Mill Creek MetroParks.