Weather driving Michiana maple syrup season
Maple syrup production at Bendix Woods County Park is once again in full swing.
Volunteers even welcomed a group of kids to come check out the syrup cycle this week in person for the first time since the pandemic began.
“They got to learn how to tap a tree, and they got to see the sap cooking in our sugar house,” explained Michaele Klingerman, Park Interpreter for Saint Joseph County Parks.
Going from tap to sap to syrup isn't as easy as it sounds. Over 300 taps are used to get sap from the maple trees. Full buckets get dumped into a giant tank which leads to the Sugar House. Then, once inside, the sap heads into the evaporator pans.
“Sap is 98% water and 2% sugar, so you have to cook off all of that water to get it down to maple syrup,” Klingerman said.
This process is definitely not a sugar rush. It takes at least 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
There are so many factors cooks have to consider, including sugar content and even the pressure of the tree stems and branches. However, the air temperature is most crucial.
“In order for sap to flow, you have to have nighttime temperatures below 32 degrees, and then have daytime temperatures above 32 degrees,” Klingerman explained.
Once temperatures get too warm, the sap then goes up into the tree and nourishes the tree buds. If that sap is used to produce syrup, the taste is unbelievably bitter.
It’s at that point that volunteers at Bendix Woods typically close up shop for the season.
However, thanks to temperatures warming due to climate change, the maple syrup season is now creeping more into the winter versus the spring.
Klingerman said that the educational and volunteer syrup programs at Bendix Woods tends to follow a set schedule, but warmer weather could force shifts in the future.
“If we continue to have warming temperatures, that can change…that can shorten our season.”
Temperatures should remain below freezing at night and above freezing during the day for the next few days, meaning production of syrup should go fairly smoothly into the start of next week.
If you are wanting to get your own bottle of maple syrup then head over to the Nature Center at Bendix Woods.