Maple Sugaring Tips

For many people in the Midwest and Eastern United States, the months of February and March are prime maple sugaring season. The process of producing maple syrup has been passed on from Native Americans in the 19th century and the hobby of maple sugaring is currently enjoying a rise in popularity as people embrace organic ingredients and do-it-yourself harvesting. Sweet, delicious, and relatively simple to procure, maple sugaring is a great way (and a tasty one at that) to introduce natural ingredients to your family’s diet.

Companies such as Tap My Trees – now stocked right here at – have made it even easier to start collecting and enjoying maple syrup on your own. With starter kits and individual maple sugaring components at affordable prices, all the products are here to get going. Here’s how to start:

1) Identify the Right Trees
Tapping into something other than a maple tree won’t be much fun and it definitely won’t produce the syrup you’re looking for; it might be a little embarrassing too! You’ll want to first determine which trees are maples and able to be tapped. There are four commonly tapped species: Sugar, Black, Red, and Silver maples.

Sugar maple trees feature vertical grooves of bark in dark grey to dark brown colors, depending on the age of the tree. Its leaves are green to light green, and rounded near the base with 5 lobes. They also produce small winged seeds.

Black maple trees have similar bark to Sugar maples, but with deeper grooves and darker coloration. They also have leaves with 3 lobes instead of 5 and produce similar seeds.

Red maples are recognized by smooth, grey bark on younger trees and dark, scaly bark on older trees. Leaves have 3 lobes and have small “teeth” along the edges. Its green leaves with white underside turn vibrant red in the fall. Its seeds are similar to the Sugar and Black maple, but they fall in the spring rather than the fall.

Silver maples have scaly, reddish bark and are relatively fragile. The 5-lobe leaves have very fine “teeth” and are green with a silver underside. Its seeds are also close to the other three types, and they also mature in the spring.

2) Find the Right Supplies
You’ll need buckets, lids, a tap, hooks, and cheesecloth, plus a drill and drill bit to put the tap hole in your tree. stocks those items separately, and we also make it easy with Tap My Tree’s all-in-one kit that includes 3 buckets and lids, 3 taps, a drill bit, cheesecloth and guidebook to maple sugaring.

You also may want a hammer to gently put the tap into the hole, and you’ll want to make sure you have containers to store your syrup after collection.

3) Tap Your Trees
The time to start tapping depends on where you live, but ideally it’s any time the daytime temperatures rise above freezing and the nighttime temperatures dip below it.

You’ll want to tap trees at least 12” in diameter, and trees greater than 20” can take multiple taps. With clean equipment, drill your tap hole at an upward angle roughly three feet off the ground using a 7/16 – 5/16 drill bit. Clear the hole of any debris and lightly tap your spile (tap) and hook into the hole. If done right, sap should begin to flow. Then, just hang your bucket from the hook, attach the lid, and start collecting!

For even more detailed tapping information, Tap My Trees has a great guide as well.

4) Collect, Store, and Enjoy
Sap should be stored at temperatures of 38 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. It also should be boiled within seven days to avoid contamination or bacteria growth. While it could be eaten straight from the bucket, you’ll want to boil your supply before consumption. From there, it’s a simple process to turn the sap into maple syrup for use in a variety of recipes.

Now that you have the basics to get started, go out and identify your maple trees today and come back to pick up the supplies you need right here at!  

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