Think you know everything about maple syrup? Think again. This natural and delicious sweetener has a lot of secrets, and a long history. Check out this list of 9 things you never knew you didn’t know about maple syrup.
- Maple tapping squirrels
During sugar season (otherwise known as “spring” to soft southerners) the North American squirrel often uses its huge front teeth to tap sweet, maple sap. The Indigenous North Americans noticed this and used hand-axes to get in on the action themselves. When someone eventually tried cooking with the sap, it boiled down, and the rest is sweet history.
- Sugar moon dancing
Indigenous tribes developed rituals around maple syrup production, marking the “Sugar Moon” (the first full moon of spring) with a maple dance.
- Death from syrup?
“Maple syrup urine disease” (MSUD) is a real thing, and it’s no joke. Sure, your pee smells of delicious, delicious syrup, but it’s also probably fatal. It’s a thankfully recessive genetic condition caused by amino acid buildup, and it brings with it brain damage, coma, and cognitive disabilities…IF you don’t die.
- Wartime sugar substitute
During wartime sugar was hard to come by, so people were forced to find other substitutes for baking. The Wartime Canning and Cooking Book gives a list of substitutes for sugar, including maple syrup!
- Handles to hold
Did you know that maple syrup bottles have little handles on them because they originally came in five-pound containers that needed handles to carry them? When the bottle size was reduced, the handle was kept because people associated the handle with that product.
- Worth stealing
Did you know that in 2012 a Canadian man was fined $9.4 million and sentenced to eight years in jail for stealing 3,000 tonnes of maple syrup worth $18.7 million from the Quebec reserve? Maple syrup really is worth more than gold!
- Tree trivia
Maple trees should be 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter before they are tapped, which ensures the tree is able to recover from the tap wound. A tree this size would be anywhere from 30 to 60 years old.
- Maple sugar, please!
The first maple syrup wasn’t stored as syrup, it was stored as maple sugar. Storing as sugar made it easier for Indigenous peoples to keep than if it had been in liquid form. This sugar was highly prized and valued for its sweetness.
- Good-for-you syrup
Maple syrup is good for you! A quarter-cup of maple syrup is high in minerals. A 60 ml portion of maple syrup contains 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of manganese, 37 percent of riboflavin, 18 percent of zinc, 7 percent of magnesium, and 5 percent of calcium and potassium. Plus, the antioxidant levels are comparable to a banana or a serving of broccoli.
This project was funded by the Government of Ontario.