What is maple syrup?

Maple syrup is generally made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees. During winter, energy is stored as starch in the roots and trunks of the maple tree. This starch is converted to sugar and rises in the sap in early spring. When the tree is between 30 and 40 years old, the sap is harvested by tapping. To do this a hole is drilled into the trunk of the tree to collect the sap, which is then heated to remove water and produce the concentrated syrup we know and love. Depending on the trunk diameter of the tree, a single maple tree can have up to three taps and many trees are tapped for sap until they are 100 years old.

Canada is the largest producer in the world with Quebec alone producing around 75% of the world’s supply.

Maple syrup is graded depending upon its density and translucency. Food grade is classified as Grade A and falls into one of these categories:

  • Golden colour and delicate taste
  • Amber colour and rich taste
  • Dark colour and robust taste
  • Very dark colour and strong taste.

Health benefits

The main constituent is natural sugar, but sugar is sugar whether refined or natural, so it’s best to eat in moderation.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that maple syrup is much more nutrient dense than refined sugar. It also contains healthy antioxidants, which refined sugar doesn’t. And it has a lower glycaemic index too, which means that it raises blood glucose level at a slower rate than refined sugar.

Maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc, but there’s a lot of sugar too. And maple syrup also contains at least 24 antioxidants, which neutralise free radicals in the body and reduce the incidence of some diseases. But do remember that it contains lots of sugar, which can cause some diseases such as diabetes.

The real benefit of maple syrup is to replace refined sugar – weight for weight maple syrup will cut your sugar intake by one third.

Recipes

Drizzle over pancakes, waffles or ice cream. Use it when you’re making chutneys, granola or muesli instead of sugar and try it as a glaze for pork or poultry. Maple syrup is also commonly used in cakes, sauces, chocolates, brownies and tarts such as the traditional Canadian maple syrup pie.

Energy ball recipes including maple syrup: