Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere

Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar

By Jeremy Trombley

A specialty of Canada and the northeastern United States, maple syrup and maple sugar are wonderful treats, but expensive and time consuming to produce. Although imitation maple syrup is common (usually corn syrup with a small amount of maple syrup for flavor) nothing compares to the real thing, and a stack of pancakes is nothing unless it is dowsed with real maple syrup.


Maple syrup and sugar typically come from the sap of the North American sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or the black maple (Acer nigrum) since these contain the highest quatities of sugar, but they can also be made from a variety of other tree types. The process begins in the late winter or early spring when the trees are tapped. This is done by driving a nail or tube into the tree and attaching a bucket to collect the sap. These buckets are left through the spring and summer and collected in the fall. They are then brought to a sugar house where it is heated for a long time to boil off the water. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to produce a single gallon of syrup. The syrup is produced first and must be boiled down further to obtain the sugar. The sugar itself consists partly of fructose and dextrose, which resist crystallization, and so it comes out as a sticky substance that can be easily formed to molds.


Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.

North American Maple Syrup Council -