Maple syrup! Nothing beats the definition of Spring's arrival for us quite like the run of sap and boiling it down to make delicious treats. We ourselves tap just a few trees, hang buckets on them, and use our home stove to make a few pints of syrup a year.
This panorama shows how big-time operators do it: huge boilers, reverse-osmosis machines, and miles of tubing carrying the sap directly into the sugar shack (as the production center is commonly known). This particular operation at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, operated by Cornell University, produces hundreds of gallons of syrup each year.
As Winter fades into Spring, the sap in Sugar Maple trees (Acer saccharum
) flows upwards in fits and starts. For best flow, the temperature must fluctuate above and below freezing in a daily cycle. This year the weather has not been good for sap flow, unfortunately, because the transition from Winter to Spring occurred rather suddenly, without the optimal back-and-forth changes needed to drive the sap.
Appearing in the panorama are staff members hosting a Maple Fest with tours of the operation, a pancake breakfast, samples of syrup, and many other maple products such as cotton candy, hard candy, and cream.
As you may surmise from the cost of pure maple syrup, a lot of effort and/or capital goes into its production. At the ratio of about 40 to 1 (sap to syrup), quite a lot of energy and/or equipment is needed to remove water. There's also the cost of equipment needed to collect the sap and the effort needed to drill holes in numerous trees.
If you're used to "maple-flavored syrup" on your pancakes, you should try the real thing: buy a small jug for yourself or as a gift and enjoy!
And in case you've not tried it, pour real maple syrup over vanilla ice cream and serve that as a tasty dessert after dinner.