Ahhhhh, maple syrup! A quintissential Canadian product (after all, we have the maple leaf on our flag) and yet it's also produced in the northernmost states of the US (particularly upstate New York and Vermont, according to our informative guide). A fascinating walk today in the Little Cataraqui Conservation Centre's maple syrup producing area was both enjoyable and educational.
According to legend, it was the random hit of a tomahawk into a maple tree trunk that introduced the native inhabitants to the delights of the maple sap. Who knows what might have happened to the course of syrup history if his blade had struck an oak tree. However, these ingenious indigenous people led pipes made out of sumak from the maple trunk down to hollowed-out branches or small trunks in which they had gathered the sap. They then heated stones in a fire and, when extremely hot, put the stones into the sap. Thus the liquid was boiled and syrup ensued.
The later settlers gathered the sap in pails which they attached to the tree trunks and poured the sap into cauldrons which they boiled over log fires.
Still later, and today in small, non-commercial concerns such as the one we visited, the sap is boiled in longer, flatter containers.
In commercial production, the trees are tapped into by a series of interconnecting tubes which drain their sap into a central reservoir, thus saving people from having to carry individual pails from the trees to the processing centre.
Only a certain amount of sap can be taken from each tree and this is determined by the diameter of the trunk. But there is a limit of four pails on any one tree. I'm not sure how this works out when the commercial tube system is in place. Our guide explained it in terms of human blood donation, which made sense.
***once again, dial-up users, big picture alert!***