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Maple Sugar Basics in Northwest Indiana

Condensing maple sap into syrup and dry sugar is a traditional food process of many Native communities of the New England, Great Lakes, and Ohio River regions. Syrup/sugar was (historically) and still is today most often made from the sap of Sugar Maples, although other types of trees are tapped for their sap too, like Soft Maples and Birches (among others).

The time to tap is when the deep freeze of winter gives way to days or periods above freezing…. It’s the cycle of freezing and thawing that creates a proper sap flow tappers can take advantage of. As the temperature rises, the sap in the tree, and the sapwood itself, expands. It’s during this time cell activity in the sap and sapwood produce gases like carbon dioxide…That carbon dioxide (and gases in general) releases into the cells, and around the cells, producing positive pressure. This pressure forces the sap out of the taps, or any wounded section of the tree’s bark that exposes the sapwood. During cold nights, or times of freezing temperatures, the carbon dioxide (and gases) cools and constricts (dissolving into the sap), causing negative pressure. This creates a suction in the tree, drawing water from the soil into it’s roots and up into the sapwood. As the day (or thawing period) begins again, so does the positive pressure. Thus this period of freezing and thawing weather is necessary to have a decent sap flow. (Note: This is just one element or process that creates sap pressure or “flow.”)

This weather pattern can and often did (in the past) last six weeks in the New England and Great Lakes region (and adjacent areas of Canada). Tapping starts typically as early as late January (sometimes earlier given recent weather patterns) in the southern regions, such as the Ohio River Valley and some areas of high elevation in the south-central Appalachians, and as late as the end of March in Canada and Northern New England. The last useable sap flow can come as early as the first days of March for the southern syrup/sugar makers, but can extend right through April for northern tappers.
What causes the sap flow to stop, or more accurately become off-tasting “buddy sap”? It’s a combination of the freezing-thawing weather pattern to give way to warmer weather, as well as the daylight hours becoming more extended, signaling the trees to start the budding process which puts an end to the productive sap flow season…

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Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak – a national news affiliate.

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About The Author

Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak - a national news affiliate.