Curriculum – Seasons of Maple

The Seasons of Maple

Spring: This is the time of the most activity when the syrup is being made and most of the harvest work is done. Most sugarhouses in Massachusetts are open to the public during the boiling season, and many have restaurants where you can have pancake breakfasts with freshly made maple syrup. Because sap must be boiled immediately to make the best syrup, sugarmakers are often boiling late into the night, and occasionally around the clock. At the end of the season, everything must be absolutely clean and in good repair before it is stored for the next season.

Summer: In the summer, chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves, absorbs energy from the sun; and the roots absorb water and minerals from the soil. In the process of photosynthesis, a simple sugar is produced, which is converted to starch, and is stored within the tree. This is the maple tree’s food and energy reserve. It is also the basis for the sweet sap to be harvested nine months later. For the sugarmaker it is a time to package and sell his maple syrup. Some producers fertilize their trees, and many thin out the “weed” trees in the sugarbush, to allow room for the maples to grow.

Autumn: As fall arrives, the days become cooler and shorter and the leaves begin to slow down their chlorophyll production. Sugar remaining in the leaves combines with other substances, and the leaves show the spectacular red and gold colors of fall. After the leaves drop it is a lot easier to work in the woods because visibility is greater, and the heat and insects of summer are gone. This is the time of the year for the sugarmaker to clean up his sugarbush, repair damage by fallen or dead trees, and to cut firewood for the house or for burning in the evaporator.

Winter: During the winter the trees remain dormant. The starch is stored within the tree, waiting to be converted to sugar in the spring, and to sweeten the sap that the maple producer will gather. For many sugarmakers the Christmas holiday season is a time when they sell much of their product. Maple syrup has become a favorite gift of residents of New England. Massachusetts maple producers ship syrup to gift recipients all over the world. This is also the time to think about the upcoming maple season, to make improvements in the sugarbush, and to dream about new equipment.