Look at the maple trees in your backyard. Have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder if I could use these to make maple syrup?” Good news, you probably can!
To get started you will need at least one mature maple which is 12 inches in diameter or more. Make sure it’s a healthy tree free of disease or damage. Maple trees with a 12 to 20 inch diameter cannot be tapped more than once, but trees with a 21 to 27 inch diameter can be tapped twice. Giant maple trees with over a 27 inch diameter can be tapped 3 times.
Four Types of Maple Trees
The four types of maple trees commonly used for syrup production in North America are the Sugar, Black, Red and Silver maples. We suggest you make a map of your property in the summer when trees are most easily identified, so when tapping season (usually mid-February through mid-March) comes around you are prepared. To identify which types of maple trees you have, even in the winter, we suggest you find a reputable source which provides color pictures of the trees’ leaves, bark, fruit and twigs/buds. In the meantime, see below for an introduction to the four most common syrup making maples.
Sugar Maple Trees
This is the most preferred tree for making maple syrup, not surprisingly for its high sugar content. It is also preferred for its late growth in the Spring. The Sugar Maple occurs naturally in southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States (as far west as Minnesota and as far south as Tennessee). It can thrive in a variety of soil conditions, but does not tolerate extremely wet or dry sites.
Black Maple Trees
The Black Maple also produces sap with high sugar content and has a late growth in the Spring, but it has a smaller natural range than the Sugar Maple. It grows between southeastern Quebec over to central Wisconsin and south to Tennessee. It does not appear to grow much on the east coast of the United States.
Red Maple Trees
It does not have as high of sugar content as the Sugar and Black maples, but this tree makes quality syrup and grows just about anywhere! No other hardwood can thrive in such a wide variety of conditions, which makes it a great tree for making syrup. And, it does make high quality syrup. Specifically, this tree can grow as far north as Nova Scotia, as far south as Florida and as far west as Minnesota and Texas.
Silver Maple Trees
It is possible to get a pretty good syrup out of a Silver Maple, but this is the least desirable of the four due to its low sugar content, early Spring growth and tendency for its sap to evaporate leaving an abundance of sugar sand. However, this tree has almost as large of a natural growth range as the Red Maple.
Now it’s time for you to learn how to tap these wonderful trees and process their sap into syrup. How amazing it is to have such incredible resources literally right in our backyards!