Warm weather slowing sap flow at Missouri research center
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Unseasonably warm weather slowed the production of maple sap at a University of Missouri maple grove near Columbia this winter.
The grove of about 130 maple trees is east of Ashland at the Baskett Wildlife Research and Education Center. Only about 200 gallons of sap was collected this year, The Columbia Missourian reported (http://bit.ly/2m4tnnw). The research center usually collects 400 to 500 gallons of sap between the end of January and early to mid-March.
Strong sap production requires below freezing temperatures at night and above freezing during the day.
The syrup produced at the research center is given to students who volunteer for the production process, but Benjamin Knapp, superintendent of the center, would like to start commercial production someday.
“We’ve had ideas of working with local restaurants, or the university has the bed and breakfast that they manage,” Knapp said. “But at this point, those are all ideas.”
The university would have to approve and the center would have to identify and efficiently tap the trees that produce the most sap to allow commercial production.
When the center began producing maple syrup in 2012, commercial-grade boiling equipment was purchased for about $10,000. It includes a large pan system run by a wood-burning fire used for the “big” boil and a smaller, propane-operated pan used for “small” boils.
The collected sap has a sugar content of only 2 to 3 percent, looks like dirty water and has about the same consistency. For the sap to become maple syrup, it goes through a “big” boil once 80 or more gallons has been collected. It’s boiled down until its sugar content is 30 to 40 percent. The “small” boil is the final step to make the sap into maple syrup that is thick, sticky and has a sugar content of 66 percent.
Maple syrup production in Missouri has mostly been done by hobbyists who tapped trees in their backyard and boiled the sap on their stove, said Hank Stelzer, Missouri state forestry extension specialist.
But more Missouri residents are taking advantage of the maple trees on their property to make homemade maple syrup, he said.
“There’s a lot of interest,” Stelzer said. “I’d say there’s more now than there’s ever been.”
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com