Maple Syrup 101

April 21, 2014

Spring signals maple syrup making time; find out why you might want to include this nutrient dense sweetener in your diet...

Spring signals maple syrup making time; SupermarketGuru wants to give you the 101 on everything maple including how the folks “tap” the sap so you can pour it on!

When this luscious treat was first discovered in trees in the Northeast, it was used as an all-purpose seasoning much the way we use salt today. The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians. It was used both as medicine and food.

Tapping begins by drilling a small hole in the trunk of a mature maple tree and putting in a spout. Sugar in the maple's sap is stored as starch throughout the year. During the spring, the temperature changes convert the starches to sugars, and the flow through the spout begins.

Though some of the larger producers use more modern technology, most sap is still gathered the old-fashioned way, in buckets hung from trees and boiled down to syrup over wood fires. The sap needs to be processed within a few hours or it will spoil.

Maple syrup has about three times the sweetening power of cane sugar and just 40 calories per tablespoon. The syrup is classified by flavor and color characteristics. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the color the more delicate the flavor, and the darker the color the stronger the flavor. One is not better than the other - it's a matter of personal taste. Syrups must be at least 66 percent sugar to qualify as “maple syrup” in Canada; in the US, any syrup not made almost entirely from maple sap cannot be labeled as “maple”. Québec, Canada, produces most of the world's supply of maple syrup.

How to Shop? Pure maple syrup has no preservatives. Read labels and ingredient lists as some syrups are a blend of different sweeteners; and if you’re looking for pure maple syrup you don't want to get ripped off! After the seal has been broken, it should be refrigerated, kept in a cool dry place, or put in the freezer, since properly prepared maple syrup will not solidify.

Maple syrup is nutrient rich! Unlike most other sweeteners, maple syrup is a great source of manganese and a good source of zinc. Manganese protects your cells from free radicals, keeps bones strong, promotes optimal thyroid function, helps maintain blood sugar levels, and more. Zinc also helps balance blood sugar, supports the immune system as well as optimal smell and taste. In moderation, maple syrup is a health food!