- Hello all,
Has anybody else on this list tried maple sap as another natural (though
admittedly minor) source of food in the temperate zone? Normally, this
is thought of as something unique to eastern Canada and the northeastern
U.S.A.(where aboriginal people developed the basics of maple tapping),
but maples produce useable sap for syrup in my climate (southwest Canada
& Northwest U.S.A.) as well. If they can do that here, then with the
right species it might be possible in northern Europe or in northeastern
Asia, and our list has members in both places. Parts of Chile and
Tasmania might just possibly work as well, though I imagine that maples
are foreigners there.
When we were boys in this region (British Columbia/Washington) one of my
brothers made a project of local maple tapping, and he still makes maple
syrup in some years if he has time. It appears he is not the only one to
think of this, since lately some of the agricultural researchers at the
University of British Columbia have taken an interest and are trying to
promote maple tapping in the area. Good for the local woods, perhaps, if
they can make it work, since otherwise foresters try to eliminate the
maples as a "weed" species. There is even, believe it or not, a "wine"
being made from maple sap (actually a mixture of the sap plus commercial
sugar) and sold experimentally in small quantities. I've tasted it, and
it isn't bad (though I prefer maple syrup).
The local species is Acer macrophyllum, and it can be tapped from
November/December to February/March in this climate. The season is
shorter but more intense in eastern Canada, where the sap rises quickly
in late winter/early spring.
My brother has taught me the techniques, & I can share them if anybody
is interested. For our northern hemisphere members, the time would be
right to start thinking about this, since the primary tapping season
hasn't arrived yet. I realize this may be too specialized a topic, since
it needs a cool climate, a woodlot of maples, and a cheap heat source
(for the evaporating process), so if nobody "bites" I'll drop this one.
- Wow! Acer macrophyllum is common way down here in the mountain canyons north of Los Angeles and Jepson's "Manual of Flowering Plants of California" holds that it ranges as far south a Baja California. So heat should not be a problem for it but, like most all deciduous trees it needs lots of water. Besides "big-leaf maple", Jepson lists "water maple" as another common name and says it grows in areas with 25 to 50 inches annually.
I've been associated with a foothill community east of Fresno, CA, the Sierra foothills, for 50 years and a common subject of discussion is spring development. It's wonderful to hear the stories, in the oral tradition, of how the old timers dug them out and I've worked on the development of 2 or 3 of them myself. An axiom is to remove all deciduous plants in the area of the spring--plants that quite obviously have their "feet" in the water source. In this dry climate, the water would be worth lots more than the maple syrup. Years ago a local farm advisor told me that a 6 inch [trunk diameter] willow uses 600 gallons of water on a summer day, so what might 60' high maple use? I've heard that developers name their projects for the natural features they destroy, so when I dug out the spring that serves my cabin I named it "Calycanthus" [oxydentalis, the spice bush].
Best wishes, all . . . John
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