March: A sweet time for Ontario maple syrup producers

·2 min read
Taps are connected to a pipe system that will draw out the sap from trees on Kevin Snyder's woodlot in Bloomingdale. (Submitted by Kevin Snyder - image credit)
Taps are connected to a pipe system that will draw out the sap from trees on Kevin Snyder's woodlot in Bloomingdale. (Submitted by Kevin Snyder - image credit)

Maple Syrup is having a sweet moment as producers get ready to tap the trees in their woodlots to prepare to make stock for 2021.

The natural sweetener is proving popular for families spending more time at home and using it more in their recipes.

"I had an increase in sales since COVID started and I couldn't figure it out at first," said Kevin Snyder of Snyder Heritage Farms in Bloomingdale, Ont.

"And then one of my customers made a comment. 'Before the lockdown,' he said, 'we were making pancakes once a month.' He says now that everybody's home, 'we're making pancakes three or four times a month.'"

As customers purchase the remaining supply of 2020 Ontario syrup, producers like Snyder and Dan Goetz of Shady Grove Maple Company in Guelph, Ont. are tapping the trees at their woodlots and waiting for the sweet spot: a temperature formula that fluctuates from about –5 C at night to 5 degrees during the day.

The modern pipeline collects from five to eight trees and moves the sap into a storage tank.
The modern pipeline collects from five to eight trees and moves the sap into a storage tank.

Red leaves predict sweet season

Goetz started tapping trees in early February. He needed to get ready for the March sap withdrawal, as he has 40 thousand taps and hoses to put in place at the 20 Ontario woodlots he owns in Kitchener, Guelph, Durham, Chatsworth and Campbellville.

In addition to temperatures today, he also kept a close eye on the leaf colours last fall. They offer a clue about how the syrup will taste in the coming season.

"We had real bright colours in the leaves, so that usually means high sugar production," said Goetz. "Reds especially tend to lean toward higher sugar contents, better sugar production. Sometimes that proves us wrong, but it's usually true."

Also, he says, "there's lots of available water coming now with all the snow we're getting."

Maple syrup being drawn off an evaporator at Shady Grove Maple Company.
Maple syrup being drawn off an evaporator at Shady Grove Maple Company.

Regional flavour

Syrups from each region of Ontario offer a different taste and spectrum of colours, from dark to light.

"Every different region has different flavours according to how the the trees are grown and the soil type," explained Snyder.

"So when you become a maple syrup connoisseur, there's a whole window of opportunity to sample and try many different flavours and grades out there. All maple syrup isn't the same. There's a huge difference in flavours, according to regions and producers."

The finished product. The maple syrup is stored in stainless steel containers at Shady Grove Maple Company in Guelph.
The finished product. The maple syrup is stored in stainless steel containers at Shady Grove Maple Company in Guelph.

All Ontario made syrup is sold with the "Sweet Ontario" logo on the container and can be purchased directly from any maple syrup producer.

"It's a local sugar," says Kevin Snyder. "And a lot of people don't realize how close their sources are until they start driving 10 or 15 kilometres and they find a local source."