Maple trees are found largely in the northern parts of USA and are known for their syrup, an aqueous substance obtained from the tree without destroying it. The syrup has a distinctive amber appearance and a sweet taste, close to that of honey. The syrup is usually tapped from three types of maples namely the sugar maple, the red maple, and the black maple trees. Prior to the winter season, these trees store up abundant amounts of starch in their stems and roots, which is converted to sugar at end of the cold season. Maple sap is tapped from the tree stems by piercing a hole in the stem tissues to expose deposits of sugar in the trunks. Once the tree’s covering is severed and its interior parts exposed, the sap is collected into jars as it drips down.
The process of maple tapping requires skills and knowledge, as well as good plant husbandry practices, since the trees have to be tended for up to 40 years before they are mature enough to be tapped. Tapping syrup from immature trees or trees of inappropriate diameter can injure the growing tree or hamper its growth. The trickles of sap obtained are therefore very valuable and treasured.
There are many reasons why people buy maple syrup. To begin with, the syrup has low calorie value and makes a healthy alternative to sugar and honey. It has a significant amount of manganese and zinc, which help ward off health problems. Zinc acts as an antioxidant and helps reduce the damaging effects of unhealthy LDL-cholesterol. In addition, zinc and manganese also contribute to a strong immune system.
Vermont, a small state in the northeastern USA, has been the largest producer of this precious commodity in USA, supplying about 5.5% of the world’s syrup in 2003. Other maple-syrup producers include the state of New York, the Nova Scotia and Quebec regions of Canada. Vermont maple syrup is regarded among the best grades. This syrup is used as a sweetener in tea and coffee, where it imparts a distinctive flavor. Besides, it makes a good accompaniment for oatmeal, porridge, waffles, and pancakes, among other uses.
Before undergoing various processes, the syrup is initially lighter in color, waterier and less sweet. Processing involves boiling the solution to evaporate the water and obtain a sweeter, thicker liquid. Properties such as color, consistency, and taste form the basis of grading the final product into different grades or categories. The grade specifications vary with the geographical region, but syrups of a lighter color are generally considered top quality. For instance, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has several classes: Canada No. 1 (with ranges between extra light, light, and medium), Canada No.2 (Amber) and No.3 with dark syrup. On the other hand, the US Department of Agriculture grading system categorizes syrup into two major grades¬—A and B. These grades are in turn sub divided further into sub categories based on the syrup’s color, which is directly proportional to the taste.
The grade indicated on the syrup package is the major factor to consider when buying syrup. Nevertheless, the manufacturers have their role to play and making the wrong choice could ruin the day. For a shopping experience without regrets, a wide range of the highest quality grades can be found at http://www.coldhollow.com/browse.cfm/maple-syrup/2,9.html.