Learn about maple syrup: Sweet hobby, sweet rewards


LONDON, Ohio – People looking for a hobby with sweet rewards should consider the trees in their backyard.

Planting, nurturing and tapping maple trees on a small-scale basis feeds family and friends, said Randy Heiligmann, Ohio State University Extension forestry specialist.

Learning how to perfect a maple-syrup hobby is one topic that will be discussed Sept. 18 at the Gwynne Conservation Area during the 2002 Farm Science Review.

Tapping trees. In Ohio and other northeastern states, maple season falls in late winter to early spring. During this time, maple producers tap trees, collect sap and boil it into syrup.

From there, some syrup is further processed into maple sugar, fudge, cream and other products, all of which can be done by a backyard hobbits, Heiligmann said.

Sap is made into syrup by boiling off water until the correct sugar concentration is achieved. As the water is removed from the sap, the sugar content becomes more potent.

This and the heat causes chemical changes that darken the syrup and give it taste, Heiligmann said.

Preferred choice. The sap used in maple syrup can be collected from any native species of maple, but in Ohio, sugar and black maples are the preferred choice. Sugar and black maples tend to have higher sap sugar contents than red and silver maples, so less sap is needed to produce a given volume of syrup, Heiligmann said.

This also requires less time and energy from the producer.

In Ohio, the average sap sugar content is about two percent, which requires 43 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup, Heiligmann said. If the sap sugar content is higher, less sap is needed for a gallon of syrup and vice versa.

Sugar content varies from tree to tree depending on weather, genetics and other factors.

Hobby production. The focus of the maple syrup program during Farm Science Review will be on hobby production, which includes collecting and processing sap to syrup or other confections using minimal specialized equipment.

“It’s a back-to-tradition kind of hobby,” Heiligmann said. “It’s not only fun, but puts people in contact with their historic roots and the way things were done 200 to 300 years ago. It’s a great family hobby too. It gives the kids something to do in the winter and ends in a delicious product everyone will enjoy.”


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