Long before colonists landed their boats from Europe, the Indigenous Peoples of the First Nations harvested the sap from the maple trees of what is now Canada and the New England region of the United States. Maple syrup is like the tomato, squash, and corn plants; native to the North American continent and if not for the Indigenous Peoples of the First Nations caring for the trees and sharing what they knew, we might never have known about it today!
The tradition was passed from generation to generation among the indigenous people, and as the maple moon rose each Spring, the harvest of Maple tree sap began, and the method of gathering, boiling, sharing syrup was shared with early European settlers, and it is still harvested in much the same way.
In Anishinaabe (ann-ish-abby) oral history, maple sap comes with a lesson from Nanabozho (the Original Man)1. Robin Wall Kimmerer, member of the Potawatomi Nation, writes about Nanabozho’s teachings in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass.1 According to the book, people became obsessed with the sweet and plentiful syrup and forgot to care for the rest of the land and in response, Nanabozho dilutes the syrup with water.
“Today, maple sap flows like a stream of water with only a trace of sweetness to remind the people both of possibility and of responsibility [ . . . ] we participate in its transformation. It is our work, and our gratitude, that distills the sweetness,” Wall Kimmerer writes.1
In the spring, taps and buckets are carefully put on the maple tree so that some of the sap rising from the roots of the tree can be collected. Harvesters have to be very careful to only take a little from the tree so that it can still get enough sap to grow! Then the watery sap is taken to a sugar shack and boiled to concentrate the sugar and flavor. It goes from 5% sugar to 66%!
Although the sap is collected in the spring, the rich taste of maple syrup is enjoyed all year long, and especially in the fall with toasted nuts, roasted squash and brussels sprouts, and in holiday desserts.
An easy way to add maple syrup to your day without getting too much sweetness in is to make a crunchy granola to add to your breakfast or after school snack! Try this yummy fall recipe today.