Have you ever wondered where maple syrup comes from? Probably not – the name kind of gives it away. But have you ever wondered what the characteristics are of maple trees that produce syrup? From identifying a handful of maples that produce syrup to how to tap your own tree, we will discuss a variety of maple syrup production topics below.
Sugar maple trees are a common part in most of the Minnesota landscape except a portion of the western region. Sap from sugar maple trees is often preferred by maple syrup producers because it is higher in sugar content than other species of maple trees. In fact, other species need to produce roughly twice as much sap as sugar maples to yield the same amount of syrup. Sap begins to flow when the temperatures shift between below and above freezing. This should be noted for all trees that can used for production, although the tapping season varies by when they break dormancy.
How to Identify a Sugar Maple Tree
Depending on the soil, sugar maples can grow up to 100 feet in height. Leaves typically have five lobes with wavy teeth and are up to five inches in length. In the spring and summer, they are dark green and change to red, orange and yellow in the fall. The bark is brown or light gray and is smooth when the tree is young then begins to crack and loosen over time.
Red & Silver Maples
While they’re not the first choice, both red and silver maple trees are perfectly acceptable options for producing syrup. The sap can be cloudy but this quality doesn’t affect the flavor or sweetness of the syrup. Compared to sugar maples, red and silver maple trees break dormancy very early in the spring. This shortens the tapping season because when a tree is no longer dormant, the sap changes and produces syrup that is unsavory.
How to Identify a Red Maple Tree
Red maples grow up to a height of roughly 65 feet. Their light green leaves have three to five pointed lobes with teeth along the edging. In the fall, the leaves turn shades of – you guessed it – red, as well as orange and yellow. Young trees have bark that is gray and even. As the tree ages, the bark darkens and cracks.
How to Identify a Silver Maple Tree
Silver maples grow up to 60 feet in height, though in some cases they’re taller. Like red maple leaves, they have three to five pointed lobes with teeth along the edging, though they often appear jagged in comparison. Although the leaves are light green on the top, they have a light silver shine on the bottom which contributes to the name of the tree. The bark is also similar to that of a red maple.
Boxelders are the most common maple trees in Minnesota and the U.S. Although the syrup can be very thick and what some would describe as “bitter,” they can also produce syrup that is sweet and delicious. Boxelders are a common source of syrup in parts of the country where other maples do not grow.
How to Identify a Boxelder Tree
Boxelders can grow up to 70 feet in height and often have a wide crown. Although they prefer soil that is damp, they are adaptable. Leaves have anywhere between three to nine leaflets that have coarse teeth. The bark is typically light brown or pale gray with deep scales.
How to Tap and Make Maple Syrup
Believe it or not, producing maple syrup is a hobby for some individuals and a common family activity. It can be an enjoyable and educational experience. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has provided a “how to” on tapping and making maple syrup. You can find it by clicking here.
Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers
Not ready to produce your own maple syrup? No worries. Minnesota has maple syrup farms from which you can purchase small to large quantities of the kitchen staple. Click on the names below to learn about each farm.
• Somerskogen Sugarbush
Located in Minnetrista, Minnesota, this family owned farm has been making maple syrup since 1994.
• Wild Country Maple Syrup
Located in Lutsen, Minnesota, this award-winning farm has been producing maple syrup since the early 80s and was established in 1995.
• Sapsucker Farms
Located in Mora, Minnesota, this organic farm started in 1997 as a vegetable garden and began tapping maple syrup in 2001.
You can learn more about maple syrup producers in Minnesota by visiting the Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association website. Maple syrup isn’t the only thing that makes trees a valuable part of a landscape. Learn about making an investment in your property here.