Bitter winter keeps syrup season bottled up; maple sap slow to run


After the winter we've been through, spring's pleasures will be sweet.

But some are coming later than usual, and you can put fresh maple syrup on that list.

One expert tells WCCO continued cold weather means the sugar maples do not have their sap flowing like it usually is by late March. Consequently, maple syrup season is off to a slow start in Minnesota.

Better late than never, though, and Brett Sieberer of Three Rivers Park District tells the station we could still see two to three weeks of sap flow leading to abundant syrup.

KARE-11 visited Fort Snelling State Park last week for a primer on the syrup-making process. Naturalist Krista Jensen says days above the freezing mark and nights below it help maple trees get their juices flowing.

Jensen says gases in the trees expand during a thaw and pull moisture out of the ground. It then collects the sugars that the tree has stored in its fibers since last fall.

Collecting is also what syrup seekers do when they tap the maples. The Shakopee News reported last week that bags are hanging from more than 250 sugar maples that have been tapped at the Minnesota Landscape Arboreteum in Chanhassen.

And it takes a lot of sap to make a little syrup. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the ratio is 30 to 40 gallons of sap for one gallon of maple syrup.

While the Arboretum held its annual pancake brunch last weekend, maple syrup tours are scheduled for each of the next two Saturday afternoons. The DNR also has maple syrup events planned this weekend at Fort Snelling and Camden State Parks.

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The President of the Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association told MPR he typically collects about 250 gallons of syrup near Fergus Falls. So far this spring, he hasn't collected any sap. Trees only produce it when there's a freeze-thaw cycle.

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Maple trees this year didn't see the usual fluctuations from warm days to freezing nights that cause the sap to run. And now with buds appearing, "sap production's over," says one producer who harvested about a quarter of what he usually collects.