Tapping Maple Trees: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Your Own Maple Syrup


| 2/27/2015 12:57:00 PM


Tags: maple syrup, sugarmaking, Minnesota, Julie Fryer,

Maple Tapping Hanging Bucket 

Maple tapping time is just around the corner! Have you ever considered taking up this fun hobby but wonder how it all really works? I’m so excited to share with you everything we’ve learned about sugarmaking. I know you’ll find it to be a great outdoor family activity and I think you’ll see it is much simpler than you thought. Best of all, your reward will be one of nature’s sweetest treats: pure maple syrup.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take you through the process of tapping trees, collecting sap, and turning this sweet bounty into enough syrup to feed your family all year long. For now, I’d like to answer a few questions I’ve run into and give you a little primer on the tapping process.

What Kind of Trees Can I Tap?

The best maple syrup comes from sugar maple or hard maple trees because their sap has the highest sugar content. You can also tap soft maples, birch, or box elder but the end product will taste a bit different and the boiling process takes a little bit longer. The tree must be healthy with a full canopy of leaves in the summer – thanks to the magic of photosynthesis, the more leaves a tree has, the sweeter its sap. One taphole will produce up to 12 gallons of sap in a season (which boils down to approximately one quart) and larger trees can accommodate more than one tap. Most sugarmakers follow this taps-per-tree rule:

• 12-inch to 18-inch diameter = 1 tap
• 18-inch to 32-inch diameter = up to 3 taps
• 32-inch or more diameter = up to 6 taps

Does Tapping Hurt the Tree?

If the tree is healthy when tapped and proper tapping procedures are followed, the taphole will start healing within a few weeks of the spile’s removal and the tree will be perfectly fine. Many maple tree farms have been tapping the same trees for over 100 years. Each taphole, however, must be placed in a different spot on the tree from the previous year. One thing to note: the bottom 4- to 6-foot "tapping zone” will result in trees that are less valuable if cut down for lumber.




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