Shenandoah County, Virginia Maple Syrup Production
As February approaches, so has maple syrup season. We have begun tapping Acer saccharum (sugar maple) trees on our woodlot in Shenandoah County, Virginia. Many people believe that maple sugar production is limited to New England and Canada. However, the Hadley’s have had success on their property located at the foot slopes of Massanutten Mountain.
Sap runs for short intermittent periods when the weather is most favorable. These conditions are characterized by alternating periods of freezing and thawing which cause the sap to flow through the xylem of the tree. The sap will only exit the tree when it is tapped (wounded). While doing as little damage to the tree as possible, a spile is inserted into the tap hole. The spile acts as a spout and is connected to hosing which flows into a collection reservoir. Syrup is produced by boiling sap at about 2% sugar content. During this process the water is evaporated until the sugar content reaches approximately 66%. To produce 1 gallon of syrup, 40-45 gallons of sap need to be collected.
Later in the spring the trees will begin to bud. The chemical composition of the sap will slightly change, causing syrup to have a less desirable flavor. This syrup is often referred to as “buddy” and marks the end of the season.
Maple syrup can also be produced from other species of maple common in Virginia. Acer rubrum (red maple) and Acer negundo (boxelder) trees may also be tapped. These species tend to have lower sap sugar contents and slightly different chemical compositions resulting in a less palatable product.
If you have any questions on how to begin producing maple syrup on your own property, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be more than happy to share our techniques to fellow hobbyists.