Spring Maple Syrup Making at a Family Maple Sugar Bush

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Making maple syrup is the most labor intensive way of obtaining calories known to man.

It’s also an excuse to get outside in the early spring and spend some time with the family in the sugar bush.

It takes forty liters of maple tree sap to produce one liter of finished maple syrup. With a 40:1 ratio, that means that maple sugar farmers have to collect thousands of gallons of maple sap, then boil off the excess water in an evaporator.

Maple sap runs in early spring – usually late February to early March. The sap runs heaviest when the nights are below freezing and the days are above freezing. A single maple tree can produce many liters of sap in a single day from a single tap.

A maple tree is tapped for maple syrup production by drilling a shallow hole into the trunk, then inserting a tap with a spout where the sap leaks out. Larger trees are tapped in multiple locations, but most trees in the sugar bush are only tapped once. In larger maple syrup operations, the sap is collected in plastic tubes directly from the maple tree taps, which drain to a central tank. Smaller maple syrup producers still use buckets – although modern buckets are usually food grade plastic not the more traditional steel.

Tapping a maple tree does not hurt the tree in any way.

Maple sap only runs for a few weeks every spring – with the majority of maple sap being collected usually during just a few days of high sap flow when the weather conditions are optimal. Maple syrup produced by maple tree sap collected early in the spring is usually lighter (referred to as light grade) and has a subtle maple flavor. Maple syrup produced by maple tree sap collected later in the season is usually heavier (referred to as amber) and has a stronger maple flavor.

Maple sugar producers usually mix light grade maple syrup with medium and amber grade maple syrup to produce a consistent medium grade (although maple syrup lovers usually prefer amber).

As you can imagine, it takes an enormous amount of energy to boil off forty liters of water for every liter of syrup produced. Most maple syrup makers use a specialty maple sap evaporator that is essentially a wood burning oven, optimized to heat and boil a flat tray of maple sap.

Maple syrup can be boiled further to thicken it and then poured over fresh snow to make maple toffee. If all the water is boiled off, the syrup will harden and crystallize into maple sugar.

The following sugar bush photos are from a family maple syrup sugar shack near Lion’s Head, Ontario, Canada.

Maple tree tapped and dripping sap into food-grade tube

Spile and food-grade pvc extract delicious maple sap from tree in spring

Family in maple forest learns about delicious healthy natural maple syrup process

Girl in winter jacket pours natural healthy maple sap into bucket

Girl in winter jacket pours natural healthy maple sap into bucket

Woman and boy cooperate to pour maple sap into collection bucket for making syrup

Woman’s hand touching icicle of frozen maple sap stuck to maple tree tap

Girl in winter jacket in maple forest by sugar shack carries bucket of sap to cooker

Girl in winter snow at sugar shack pouring sap into boiler to make delicious maple syrup

Boy inspects sugar shack barrel feeding boiler for maple sap reduction

Man pours sap into boiler as family learns maple syrup production on Ontario farm

Stainless steel bucket collects fresh maple syrup flowing out of cooker on maple syrup farm

Woman carries firewood for cooker for natural delicious maple syrup production

Fire and embers glow inside black cast iron stove in rustic Ontario sugar shack on maple syrup farm

Man in maple syrup farm sugar shack pours fresh delicious healthy syrup into vat

Man in maple syrup farm sugar shack pours fresh delicious healthy syrup into vat

Woman in winter jacket examines food grade PVC tube carrying maple sap from tree to sugar shack

Ontario maple syrup farm rustic antique traditional equipment

Ontario maple syrup farm rustic antique traditional equipment

Two figures walk through winter forest in bright late afternoon sunlight

Rear view of young girl walking through winter forest in snow and blue sky


All images from this session are available for royalty free licensing at Stocksy United. 



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JP Danko


JP Danko is an active lifestyle photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.


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