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Good Question: What’s In Tree Sap?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Normally, this is the time of year that pancake lovers look forward to. Maple trees are usually oozing with sap, which is then turned into maple syrup. So, what’s in sap and don’t the trees need it? Good Question.

Trees do indeed need it, but only for a little while.

“It’s kind of like a food for the new leaves and provides nutrients to the tree too,” said Emily Hanson of Three Rivers Park District.

Hanson said the maple’s leaves produce sugar during the summer and in the spring the tree draws water from the ground. The water and sugar mix inside the tree then creates sap, which helps new buds grow.

“In the spring, once the buds start to open up and the leaves start to open, the sap isn’t necessary and most of the sugars have been used at that point,” said Hanson.

That’s when you can tap, and it usually happens during the entire month of March. But this year was different.

If maples could talk, they would likely have a few choice words for Mother Nature. They need moisture in the summer and fall, and freezing temperatures in the spring to help create sap. It didn’t happen.

“There really wasn’t much going on,” said Hanson.

Tapping at Carver Park Reserve only lasted about 5 days this year as opposed to 30 on an average year. Last year, they gathered 400 gallons of sap, which made about 12 gallons of maple syrup. This year, just 10 gallons were collected which produced a measly 1/2 gallon of syrup.

But Mrs. Butterworth isn’t sweating. That’s because she’s made from corn syrup, and Vermont, which produces most of the nation’s maple syrup, had better weather for it this year. So, your pancakes, waffles and Eggos are safe.

“It was rough this year, but a really good maple tree can produce for 100 years. It just depends on how healthy it is,” said Hanson.

One healthy tree can produce up to 15 gallons of sap a year.

The entire process of making maple syrup takes about 10 hours, from when it’s taken from the tree to being cooked.

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