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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

March 22, 2023 - 9:00am --

Last weekend my family and I visited Malabar Farm located in Lucas, Ohio for their yearly maple syrup festival. This event takes you back in time to show you how they produced maple syrup centuries ago. You get to watch historical demonstrations, ride on horse drawn wagons and lots of taste testing! Unfortunately, this event is over for the year, but this is something that I suggest to everyone to visit at least once!

Have you ever wondered why there are bags hanging on trees in the woods or seen all the tubing going through the woods when you are driving around this time of year? Well, that is how the maple sap is collected! In the beginning sap was collected in hollowed-out logs and hand walked to the fire to boil it down. Then around the 1800s is when the hollowed-out logs were traded in for wooden buckets. Horse drawn wagons collected the sap in the woods then the wagons hauled the sap to the fire.

Sugar maple is the most popular tree to tap

There are many steps involved when you are collecting sap. First you must determine which species of maple trees to tap. Sugar maple is the most popular and common maple found in Ohio woods. It is identified by its bark that is a dark brownish color, the buds are sharp, and it has five-lobed leaves. The sap produced from sugar maple contains a higher level of sugar compared to other maples. Red maple can be tapped, and it is identified by its red color, rounded buds, and three-lobed leaves. The sap produced from red maples is less sweet than sugar maples. Another species, black maple is identified by the three-lobed leaves that are more rounded and droopier than sugar maples. Its sap is very similar to sugar maple sap.

Tapping is when you drill a hole into the tree no deeper than 1.5 inches. You want to tap trees in early spring and when the temperatures are above freezing to prevent damage to the tree. Once the hole is dilled you gently want to insert the spile. The spile is what holds the bucket on the tree and what the sap flows through to get to the bucket. How much sap is collected on each tree depends on the tree, weather conditions, and the sap flow. When the buds break or expand in the late spring, the sap becomes off flavored and not desirable for processing.

It takes a lot of sap to make a little bit of syrup

Did you know? It takes around forty-sixty gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. It is because of the sugar content in the sap. Sap should be boiled soon after collection because it can ferment and cause an “off taste”. The water must be evaporated off by boiling the sap. Sap becomes syrup when the temperature is 7 ½ degrees Fahrenheit above the temperature at which water boils. For example, if water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, then the density for syrup would need to be around 219 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the syrup has reached its proper temperature and before packing it into containers it should be filtered to remove a gritty material called “sugar sand”. Syrup can be strained in wool or orlon which is available from maple syrup dealers. Syrup should be packed into containers when it is still hot and stored in a cool, dry location.

Fruit Workshop, Plant Day, greenhouse clinic

Upcoming events that will be happening in Wayne County include a small fruit workshop on April 12, Native plant day on April 21 and a greenhouse clinic on April 29. Please check the Extension Facebook page and website for more information coming soon!

Shelby Tedrow is an Agriculture & Natural Resources and 4-H Program Assisstant with OSU Extension and can be reached at or 330-264-8722
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This article was previously published in The Daily Record.