You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 : 10 a.m.

Fun family activity: It's maple syrup time!

By Tammy Mayrend


Gabriella Mayrend collecting the maple sap from a tree the family tapped March 2009.

Tammy Mayrend | contributor

The birds are beginning to chirp out my window each morning, the sun is shining more often, and most importantly for maple syrup season, the days are getting warmer with cool evenings - this means the sap should be beginning to flow in the maple trees, and we can begin tapping the trees for maple syrup!


Zach Mayrend is ready to drill the holes in the maple trees to make syrup.

Tammy Mayrend | contributor

It's really not that difficult to do, either; tapping maple trees for their sap is an easy and fun activity for the entire family. Two years ago, my family and I attended the Sap to Syrup event with Faye Stoner through Washtenaw County Parks. We learned a lot and got to boil a small amount of sap to make enough syrup for one pancake dinner.

I suppose that was enough to give us the syrup bug though, since last year we tapped enough trees to make almost a full gallon of syrup! Yes, almost a full gallon! What's amazing about that is a gallon of syrup basically means we boiled down almost 60 gallons of maple sap.

Now you may not want to work that hard, but if you do want to teach the children wonderful (and tasty) traditions, I urge you to make your own maple syrup this year. A quick tutorial can even be found at my Michigan Backyard Gardening blog, or adults can learn more about making maple syrup with the Sap to Syrup program running this Saturday March, 6, from 1-4 p.m. Be sure to pre-register early.

Tammy Mayrend is a search marketing professional who blogs on local activities for families at


Tammy Mayrend

Wed, Mar 3, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

Hi Angela, all species of maple trees have sugar content; however Sugar Maple trees are the best ones to tap. You'd look for trees with at least a diameter of 12". I have also heard that other types of trees can be tapped to make syrups (such as birch trees) however I have not done that yet; I'll have enough maple sap on my hands this year again!

Angela Smith

Wed, Mar 3, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

do any maples work, or just sugar maples?

Stefan Szumko

Tue, Mar 2, 2010 : 9:35 p.m.

Sounds sappy.

Tammy Mayrend

Tue, Mar 2, 2010 : 8 p.m.

That's a great question Stefan, unfortunately I don't have a solid answer for you. Every tree produces at its own rate. We tapped two 100+ year old Sugar Maples last year that produced nothing, while the other maple trees were probably 25-30 years old and they poured out the sap the moment they were tapped. Last year we ran 7-8 taps (excluding the large Maples) and tapped the trees for about a week-and-a-half - I boiled down the sap as it was collected too.

Stefan Szumko

Tue, Mar 2, 2010 : 7:38 p.m.

How long does it take to collect and boil down 60 gallons of sap?

Tammy Mayrend

Tue, Mar 2, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

Yes spooner, that is one method that saves time so long as you have a large enough freezer or if the nights are still below freezing outside! We tried that some last year as well. Thanks for the added time-savings!


Tue, Mar 2, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

I learned a secret while making syrup in the mid 1970s. You collect the sap during the warm day. When it freezes over night you can take the chunk of ice out and throw it away. The syrup doesn't freeze but stays at the bottom of the bucket. To make sure that works, I pulled out some ice and boiled that down and there was no syrup in that ice. This reduces the sap to syrup ratio to 15 to 1. That's a major savings in time and heat. Good luck and have fun.