Maple syrup is a staple in Vermont. Most Vermonters are familiar with the sugaring process, or even make their own syrup. It all started with the Abenaki, the indigenous tribe native to Vermont, who used to make maple sugar by placing hot stones into maple sap until the sap reached its boiling point. When it achieved the proper thickness, the syrup was then poured onto the snow to cool into a solid form. These days, the basic sugaring process has not changed, though collection and cooking implements have. Reverse osmosis machines, plastic tubing, and vacuum-pump collection have made sugaring a lot more efficient. In fact, this great little state produces the most maple syrup in the country - generating about 47% of the nation's total supply!
Maple syrup comes from sugar maple trees, known as senômozi to the Abenaki. Sugar maple is native across New England, parts of the upper Midwest, and Quebec. In early spring when the days get above freezing but the nights are still below freezing, the trees begin to wake up: Sending energy, in the form of sap, throughout the tree. Many thousands of years ago, the Indigenous people of this region devised a way of tapping into that flow of sap, collecting it in buckets, then boiling it down to get senômozibagw [se-NOH-moh-ZEEbahk], sweet maple syrup and maple sugar. The Abenaki & Mi'kmaq people taught this method to early French missionaries in the 17th century, and it became a popular practice of European settlers, a tradition that continues today. Though over the millennia the tools and methods have been updated, we essentially still get syrup the same way. However, the future of maple syrup is in doubt, as rising temperatures and changes in precipitation caused by human-induced climate change is already affecting maple production.
- Vermont is part of a unique bioregion in the Northeastern US and Canada called the Maple Nation.
- Quebec produces over 70% of the world’s maple syrup.
- Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States.
- It takes up to 40 quarts of sap to produce one quart of maple syrup.
- Other trees besides sugar maples can be tapped for syrup, including red maple, silver maple, and birch, though the sap of those trees usually has a lower sugar content.
- All grades of syrup have the same sugar content. Maple syrup that is produced earlier is lighter in color, and gets progressively darker, as well as tastes more robust, as the season goes on.
- Compared to white sugar, maple syrup has lower sucrose content.
- Maple syrup contains a number of minerals including calcium, iron, and potassium.