Getting Ready for Sugaring Season
We’re nearing the midpoint of winter and before you know it Spring will be here. With the arrival of warmer day temperatures and cold night temperatures, sap will begin flowing. Ideally night temperatures need to drop to below freezing and day temperatures need to be in the 40°'s. Sap flows in maple trees when there’s a rise in temperature which is why maple syrup is made in the spring. But more than a rise in temperature, maple trees require cyclical temperatures of below freezing at night and 40-45 degrees during the day for optimal sap flow. This pattern of freezing and thawing builds pressure within the trees which causes the sap to flow.
Did you ever wonder how farmers collect so much sap to make maple syrup? It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, so a lot of sap needs to be collected before making maple syrup. Before the sap begins to flow, farmers go into their sugarbush to install an intricate webbing of tubing that connects all of the trees to a central line and large collection tank. Once the tubing is in place, they drill a hole in the tree, tap in the spout and connect the tubing system. To help with flow, a vacuum system pulls the sap into the tank for processing. To prevent the backflow of sap, a check valve allows the sap to flow in one direction.
Farmers must check their lines daily to ensure they’re working properly. Squirrels are notorious for chewing through tubing, so farmers must be vigilant about checking for holes and other chewing damage. This is a time consuming process especially for large maple syrup operations that have miles and miles of sap lines. Any holes in the system will decrease the vacuum pressure and ultimately the rate of the sap flow. Once the sap flows, it’s an ongoing process that can be more difficult depending on location and amount of snowfall.
Collecting sap is the first step in the production of maple syrup and we'll be looking at the rest of the process in future articles. Make yours local with locally produced maple syrup in the Capital Region.