RAPID CITY: Well before Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state in 1837, Native Americans were actively tapping maple trees and boiling down the clear liquid sap into a sweet and delicious syrup. Today, maple sugaring remains the oldest activity tied to the state’s agriculture industry.
The Michigan Maple Syrup Association and more than two dozen of its members are once again inviting the public to experience this unique craft during the 5th Annual Michigan Maple Syrup Weekend, scheduled from mid-March through early April across the state.
“While our organized weekends have only been going on for five years, many communities around Michigan have been celebrating their maple sugaring heritage for more than 50 years,” says Joe Woods, the event coordinator. “Visitors to local farms can meet the farmers and their families that produce maple syrup and get outside and enjoy Michigan’s early spring weather.”
Due to the state’s diverse weather and geographical elements, events are first held in the Southern Lower Peninsula (south of US10), March 18–19, followed by events in the Northern Lower Peninsula (north of US10), March 25–26 and throughout the Upper Peninsula, April 1–2. Attendees are reminded to wear boots as mud and snow may still be abundant this time of the year.
The family-friendly events provide a chance for people to get a firsthand look at how maple sap is collected, boiled down and turned into sweet maple syrup and other maple treats. Many of the farms offer tours of their operation, including tree tapping demonstrations, samples of their products, recipes for the use of maple syrup and local maple syrup products available to purchase. (Scroll down for maple syrup recipes you can try this weekend!)
Michigan Maple Syrup Facts
- Michigan ranks 5th in maple syrup production in the United States.
- Average maple syrup production in Michigan is about 90,000 gallons per year.
- Economic contributions of the pure maple syrup industry to Michigan are nearly $2.5 million annually.
- There are an estimated 500 commercial maple syrup producers in Michigan with some 2,000 additional hobby or home use producers.
- The production of pure maple syrup is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States.
- Maple syrup is one of the few agricultural crops in which demand exceeds supply.
- Only about 1 percent of Michigan’s maple forest resource is used in maple syrup production.
- In an average year, each tap-hole will produce about 10 gallons of maple sap, enough for about a quart of pure Michigan maple syrup.
- It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
- A gallon of standard maple syrup weighs 11 pounds and has a sugar content of 66 percent.
- Maple syrup is the first farm crop to be harvested in Michigan each year.
- Maple syrup is not the recipient of any crop support or subsidy programs.
- A maple tree needs to be about 40 years old, with a diameter of 10 inches before tapping is recommended.
- Warm sunny days and freezing nights determine the length of the maple season.
- The budding of maple trees makes the maple syrup taste bitter. Thus, production ceases.
- Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure and force the sap out of the tree.
- A very rapid rise in temperature (25 to 45 degrees) will enhance the sap flow.
- While the sugaring season may last 6–10 weeks, during this period, the heavy sap may run only 10–20 days.
- Average sugar concentration of maple sap is about 2.5 percent.
- Maple sap is boiled to remove the water and concentrate the sugars in a process called evaporation.
- Maple sap becomes maple syrup when boiled to 219 degrees Fahrenheit, or 7 degrees above the boiling point of water.
- Pure Michigan maple syrup has 50 calories per tablespoon and is fat-free. It has no additives, no added coloring and no preservatives.
- Maple syrup has many minerals per tablespoon: 20 milligrams of calcium, 2 milligrams of phosphorus, 0.2 milligrams of iron, 2 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium.
- Maple syrup is classified as one of nature’s most healthful foods.