It's Syrup Season! How to Tap Mother Nature for a Sweet Treat

Late this week and into next week could be the prime days of 2013 for syrup enthusiasts looking to tap into a Minnesota tradition.

Know of a syruping event taking place in the coming weeks? Have a sweet trick to keep the sap running? Share them in the comments section!

Q: When I think of spring, I think of making maple syrup. What conditions produce the best sap output?

A: During March, I watch the long-range weather forecast. When an extended period of warm daytime temperatures are predicted to reach the upper 40s or higher, and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing each night, the trees will break dormancy and sap will flow. Then I need to have my equipment ready to start tapping.

In northern Minnesota we rarely get steady weather patterns, so we may get a few days of sap flow followed by none. Warm mild days with little wind that reach well above freezing in the morning and nights that dip into the mid-20s will produce the strongest prolonged flow. If that pattern holds for a week or more that’s great sap flow weather. In northern Minnesota this weather traditionally comes at the end of March into mid-April. But since it is so weather dependent every sugaring season is unique.

-John Fylpaa, DNR park naturalist, Lake Bemidji State Park

Looking for some maple syrup recipes? Click here for an extensive list—from lunch and dinner to snacks and sauces—courtesy of the Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association.

Governor Tim Pawlenty declared the month of April "Maple Syrup Month" in the state, and the tradition of tapping maple trees for syrup long pre-dates Minnesota's admission into the Union.

From Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources:

It's quite a process to get delicious maple syrup from the tree to your table each spring. Come to a maple syruping event and check it out for yourself. You'll enjoy some hands-on experience, and we know you'll enjoy your sample of the fresh syrup!

When does the sap run?

Maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are below freezing. This cycle of above-freezing days and below-freezing nights needs to continue for several days, although nature occasionally has been known to provide a good run under less perfect conditions.

Sometimes sap flows as early as January or as late as May, but in Minnesota, sap usually runs from about March 15 to April 20.

How does the sap turn into syrup?

Sap is converted to syrup by boiling. Most of the water boils out of the sap, leaving behind the sugar and the flavor. It usually takes 30-40 gallons of sugar maple sap to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup.


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