Please Pass the Syrup

by Jill Murphy
New Britain, CT, United States

Maple syrup is an emblem of Canadian identity. When people think about Canada, this gooey brown sweetness is often where their minds go. Loved by many, maple syrup has created a name for Canada. More than fifty countries each year import maple syrup from Canada, proving that the world cannot get enough of its taste.

From Tree to Table

Maple syrup is made from certain types of maple trees in the eastern part of Canada. They build up starch in their trunks during the winter. Once spring begins and the temperature starts rising, there’s a perfect window of warmer days and below-freezing nights. The tree converts starch into sugar and collects water from its roots.

The pressure that builds within the tree during the early spring days causes the sap to leak through any cuts in the bark. As the pressure starts to drop, the sap flow slows until it stops for the night. This process continues for six weeks, until a carefully regulated amount of sap has been harvested.

Maple sap contains about 97 percent water, plus minerals, organic acids and maple taste precursors. Heating the sap to remove the water content can be done in several ways. It takes about 40 liters of sap to make one liter of syrup. The trees on 2.5 acres of land can output about 250 liters of syrup.

A Sappy Ending

Once the syrup is collected and condensed, it is exported throughout the world. In 2017, 10,847 maple farms produced 12.5 million gallons of syrup.

Quebec exports 95% of Canada’s maple products, making it the most productive province. The United States is one of Canada’s biggest importers, consuming 65% of the maple syrup exported from Canada.

All of that sticky, golden deliciousness means you get to have your (pan)cake and eat it, too.


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Math Questions

  1. How much sap will be required to make 12.5 million gallons of syrup? How many swimming pools could you fill with that amount of syrup?
  2. If the US consumes 65% of Canada’s exported maple syrup, how many gallons go to other countries? What is this amount in liters?
  3. How many liters of sap will it take to make 25 liters of syrup? What is this amount in gallons?
  4. If one tree produces an average of 42 liters of sap in a season, how many trees will it take to make 25 liters of syrup?
  5. If the US produces 4.3 million gallons of maple syrup from 13.3 million taps, how much syrup does each tap produce?
  6. If farmers sell their syrup for $35 per gallon, what is the total revenue for maple syrup production in the entire country?

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Extension Questions

If temperatures in Canada rise because of climate change, and given that growers rely on freezing temperatures to collect maple sap, what do you think is going to happen to maple syrup production over time?

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  1. Facts about the maple syrup industry in Canada
  2. Data tables about maple syrup production
  3. How to make your own maple syrup if you have at least one tree
  4. Video showing how to produce syrup from one tree
  5. Details about climate change and maple syrup production

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