December 17th is National Maple Syrup Day!
This legendary sweet treat that hails from North America has long been associated with breakfast foods like pancakes, but it can easily be wed with fruits and vegetables to create a wide variety of other sensational dishes.
For example, maple syrup can transform roasted autumn vegetables (like acorn or butternut squash), berries, and oatmeal, and it can be used as a substitute for honey or refined sugar in salad dressings and baked goods.
I will share a recipe using maple syrup in a minute…but first, let’s find out more about the magic of maple syrup.
How Is Maple Syrup Made?
As most of us know, maple syrup is made from the sap of the maple tree.
There are several different types of maple trees, including the sugar maple, the red maple, and the black maple.
Maple trees store starch in their trunks and roots.
In the spring, the starch is converted to sugar that rises in the sap.
To collect the sap, trees are tapped by boring holes into their trunks. Once collected, the sap is heated. The water evaporates, leaving a concentrated syrup.
The maple season lasts 8-10 weeks, but sap flow is heaviest during a 10-20 day period in early spring.
A maple syrup production farm is called a sugarbush or sugarwood. The sap is boiled in a sugar house (also called a sugar shack).
Maple syrup production is labor intensive.
It takes 30-50 gallons of sap to create one gallon of maple syrup; one tree yields between 10 to 14 gallons in a season. Furthermore, a tree must be at least 30 years old and 12 inches in diameter before it can be tapped.
Until the 1930s, the US was the leading maple syrup producer. Today, Canada produces 71 percent of the world’s pure maple syrup, with 91 percent of the Canadian production taking place in Quebec.
The state of Vermont is the largest producer in the US, creating about 5.5 percent of the world’s maple syrup supply.
There are several different “grades” of maple syrup, depending on the color.
In the US, maple syrup is classified either as grade A or grade B. Grade A is further subdivided into 3 groups: Light, Medium and Dark Amber. Grade B is the darkest of all.
The darker the syrup, the stronger the flavor. Dark syrups tend to be used for baking while lighter syrups are used directly on foods like pancakes or waffles.
Is Maple Syrup Good for You?
Pure maple syrup contains active antioxidant elements and is a good source of minerals.
However, it is a source of added sugar in the diet and its consumption should follow the 5% rule.
In the end, the decision on whether or not to include maple syrup in your diet will depend on where you are in your plant-based journey.
National Maple Syrup Day is best celebrated with a recipe.
To show you how to bake with this natural sweetener, here is a recipe for Mini Pecan Pies.