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Maple Sugaring

Environmental Education Center, 190 Lord Stirling Rd, Basking Ridge, NJ • 908 722-1200 Option 2-1

Maple Sugaring
Maple Sugaring
MaSampling the Maple Syrup
Gathering The Sap

Gathering the sap is generally the most expensive part of the sugar bush operation because of the time and number of people needed.

The Native Americans collected sap in a hollowed log at the base of a tree. The pioneers first used buckets made from ash or oak. These were an improvement over the log basin but were difficult to keep water (sap) tight and were both large and heavy. Tin and lead covered buckets were another improvement, but were soon discarded for the lighter and easier to clean aluminum buckets in use today.

Plastic bags for sap collection have both advantages and disadvantages. They are lighter, easier to store, and easier to handle in the field when gathering sap. Their greatest advantage is that they allow sunlight to get to the sap, which destroys bacteria in the sap. The primary disadvantage of the bag is that they are harder to clean and do not last very long. Constant rubbing against the rough bark of the tree wears the plastic, animals chew holes through the bags to get to the sweet sap, and freezing of the sap cracks the bags.

Plastic tubing, making use of the natural force of gravity, is the newest method of sap collecting. It has the same advantages of the plastic bags plus saves money on the manpower and time needed to collect sap from the buckets or bags. Tubing, however, can be used only where gravity flow of the sap is possible. Initial connections of the tubes from the trees to intermediate pipelines to a main line are quite intricate and lengthy. Using a tubing system, one person can operate a 5,000-tap sugar bush. With horses and buckets, this same size sugar bush requires the services of eight people.

All types of sap collecting containers should be covered to keep out rain and snow because the additional water increases the evaporation time. The covers also reduce impurities in the syrup due to falling and wind blown debris. All collection and storage equipment must be washed in boiling water and rinsed in 20% chlorine solution at the beginning and end of the sugaring season, and as often during the season as practical. Spiles and tubing need to be completely sanitized only once each season.

Gathering the Sap Gathering the Sap Container

Please click on the following links for more information on maple sugaring:

Maple Sugaring Home
Boiling Down

Gathering The Sap
History of Maple Sugaring
Is It Syrup Yet?
Maple Activities
Maple Recipes
Sugar Bush
Word Search (pdf file)
Word Search Answer Key (pdf file)
Multiple Choice Questions

E-mail the EEC any questions or comments.