Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species such as the bigleaf maple. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.
Maple syrup was first collected and used by aboriginal people of North America. The practice was adopted by European settlers, who gradually improved production methods.
Both maple syrup and maple sugar were used during the American Civil War and by abolitionists in the years prior to the war because most cane sugar and molasses were produced by Southern slaves.
Technological improvements in the 1970s further refined syrup processing. The Canadian province of Quebec is by far the largest producer, responsible for about three-quarters of the world's output; Canada exports more than C$145 million (approximately US$141 million) worth of maple syrup per year. Vermont is the largest producer in the United States, generating about 5.5 percent of the global supply.
Maple products are considered emblematic of Canada, in particular Quebec, and are frequently sold in tourist shops and airports as souvenirs from Canada. The sugar maple's leaf has come to symbolize Canada, and is depicted on the country's flag. Several US states, including New York and Vermont, have the sugar maple as their state tree. A scene of sap collection is depicted on the Vermont state quarter, issued in 2001.
Maple syrup is graded according to the Canada, United States, or Vermont scales based on its density and translucency. Sucrose is the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup. In Canada, syrups must be at least 66 percent sugar and be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup. In the United States, a syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labelled as "maple".
The basic ingredient in maple syrup is the sap from the xylem of sugar maple or various other species of maple trees. It consists primarily of sucrose and water, with small amounts of other sugars such as fructose and glucose. Organic acids, the most notable one being malic acid, make the syrup slightly acidic. Maple syrup has a relatively low mineral content, consisting largely of potassium and calcium, but also contains nutritionally significant amounts of zinc and manganese. Maple syrup also contains trace amounts of amino acids, which may contribute to the "buddy" flavour of syrup produced late in the season, as the amino acid content of sap increases at this time. Additionally, maple syrup contains a wide variety of volatile organic compounds, including vanillin, hydroxybutanone, and propionaldehyde. It is not yet known exactly which compounds are primarily responsible for maple syrup's distinctive flavour.
Maple syrup and its various artificial imitations are widely used as toppings for pancakes, waffles, and French toast in North America. They can also be used to flavour a variety of foods, including fritters, ice cream, hot cereal, and fresh fruit. It is also used as sweetener for granola, applesauce, porridge, baked beans, candied sweet potatoes, winter squash, cakes, pies, breads, ice cream, tea, coffee, and hot toddies. Maple syrup can also be used as a replacement for honey in wine (mead).
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