Maple Syrup in Illinois

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Maple Syrup Time in Illinois

By Timothy Collins

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 Eric Moe of Macomb, IL, pours sap from sugar maple trees at Argyle Lake State Park into a steaming tray of cooking syrup. The park, in McDonough County, IL, held its annual Maple Syrup Festival March 5, 2016.

The origins of maple syrup making in North America can be traced back to the First Peoples. The delicious sweetness became a staple for the Europeans who came here later. Today, maple syrup making is a spring tradition and a part of the rural economy, especially in the Northeast.

Here in Illinois, we are not a major maple syrup producer. But we have some places where, when the night temperatures are below freezing and the daytime temperatures are above freezing, the sugar maple (acer saccharum) sap runs, rising during the day and falling at night. (This is the best maple for syrup.)

With a careful cut into the tree trunk, it is possible to tap into one of nature’s sweetest gifts. The sap is collected in a container (or may be piped to a collection place in larger operations), brought to the sugar house, and carefully boiled for hours so that 98% of the liquid is evaporated.

What’s left, after up to 80 gallons of water are boiled off, is one gallon of tasty syrup.  

It takes patience, but the final result is well worth the work that can make spring special.

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