By Linda Halley | Gwenyn Hill Farm is blessed with maples; mostly red, some sugar, and an occasional silver maple. Ryan Heinen, Gwenyn Hill’s Land and Livestock Manager, and I put out a few taps this past week, We located them in easy-to-reach places along the road and in my yard. Sap runs best when the nights freeze and the days warm above 32. We’ve had a run of favorable days so far and the long term forecast is for more of the same.
I’ve become a happy slave to the bulging blue bags that hang on the maples in my yard. I unhook the “sap sack” and pour the crystal clear liquid into my collection bucket. To look at it one would not know it is anything but pure water. I spin the lid onto the bucket and, before I place the sack back onto the hook, I spend a little time marveling at the steady drip, drip from the metal spout. A cynic could observe that it is about as exciting as watching paint dry. To me it is a thrill; nature at its miraculous best, with a bounty to share for those willing to collect it.
New to this process, I am pretty amazed that, on warm, sunny days, the big silver maple by the dairy barn will produce nearly 10 gallons of sap per day. I have also noticed that if a tree has two taps, the tap on the sunny side will run twice as fast as the tap on the north. The rule of thumb is only a tree with a diameter of over 20 inches should have two taps.
Local Superfood: Maple Water
Although I love maple syrup, my secret mission is to introduce as many people as I can to maple water. Maple water is the unprocessed, filtered sap, just as it comes from the tap. It is only 2% sugar so tastes like refreshing spring water finishing with a hint of sweet. It is lifted through capillary action from deep in the ground by a huge and amazing plant, bringing with it calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. A glass of maple water has more magnesium (essential for calcium absorption by your body) than a serving of kale. Once you have had your first sip of maple water you’ll be asking why anybody would be drinking coconut water made from trees grown in a distant latitude. Drink local.
Video: Maple Tapping
So how does one partake of the amazing maple water? Well, for now, if you are driving by the farm while I’m collecting, just stop. I keep a little cup with me, ready to make a new fan whenever the opportunity comes along.
Linda Halley is the General Manager of Gwenyn Hill Farm. Although she has been farming for most of her life, she embraces learning something new on the farm nearly every day.