March is Maple Sugar Month

March is International Maple Month in Canada and the United States! Maple sugaring season begins now, and the states of Maine and New Hampshire are planning celebrations in honor of the industry. The New Hampshire Maple Producers Association’s Maple Weekend will be held March 25 and 26, and Maine Maple Producers Association will hold Maple Sunday on March 26. On these days Sugar Houses in both states will open their doors to the public to share demonstrations of the centuries-old craft of maple sugaring and making syrup. They will offer free samples of fresh syrup, maple candies and confections, coffee, and doughnuts. Many farms will host activities such as games, pancake breakfasts, sugarbush tours, horse-drawn cart rides, and music.

Sugar and Red Maples are the trees that are tapped for sugaring, with sugar maples being preferred. Both of these trees are Signs of the Seasons indicator species, in large part due to their economic importance.

While the tree’s leaves are green during the summer the maples produce starches, which are dormant in the fall until the springtime. Then the sun comes out and warms up the trees. A chemical reaction occurs and starches convert to sugars. Sap begins to flow in the spring when there is an increase in pressure and the sap moves through the tree to feed the branches for new growth. One tap in one sugar maple tree yields 10,000 gallons of sap over the season.

Sap is obtained by drilling a five-sixteenths hole into the white layer under the bark. As sap flows up the tree it leaks out during the warmer days that are above freezing. At night, the ideal for sap production is freezing temperatures, and the sap goes back down the tree for storage.

The season will run as long as the region experiences a cycle of below-freezing and above-freezing temperatures, which change the pressure inside the trees and cause the sap to flow.

Warmer winters can shorten the season, or sometimes even lengthen it, creating fluctuations in production. The temperature-dependent nature of the industry makes it extremely susceptible to climate change.

See more information on Maine Maple Sunday.

Information on New Hampshire Maple Weekend.