|Typical maple leaf|
|Harvesting maple syrup|
Once the sap is harvested, it must be boiled to concentrate the flavor and create the syrup. This process takes a long time and a lot of equipment depending on how fancy you want to be. In general, 5-13 gallons of sap will produce about .26 gallons of syrup. After concentration, the syrup must be filtered to remove sugar crystals and is then bottled and graded.
|Three Grade A, darkest Grade B|
|Red maple, Acer rubrum|
Because the syrup we currently value is milder and lighter, it's easier to fake. In Vermont this is a big deal - and some politicians are seeking felony charges for those who create and sell artificial knock-offs, looking for a similar special protections like those given to Hawaiian coffee and Washington onions. Senators Patrick Leahy from Vermont and Susan Collins from Maine are hoping that the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement act (yes, this spells MAPLE) will increase the punishment for fraudulent syrup to a five year maximum prison sentence.
|Sugar maple, Acer saccharum|
Why maples? Maples have the highest concentration of sugar in the sap - simple as that. Other maples can be used for syrup harvesting, but they tend not to produce as much as the big three. Maple syrup harvesting has a fantastic history dating back to Native Americans. In fact, the harvesting of sap is one of the few agricultural pursuits that is not a direct import from European countries. It's nice to see that so many people care about the cultivation and purity of this national heritage, and hopefully the tradition can continue (even though we'll never produce as much syrup as Canada - there's a reason their flag has a maple leaf on it.)