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Sugar Maple in the PNW?

 
Kyle Williams
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Location: Olympia, WA
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Does anyone have experience with growing Northeast Sugar Maple in the pacific northwest? Obviously Bigleaf/Oregon Maple does well here, and so I'm wondering what, if anything, would prevent Sugar Maple from thriving in that niche and producing a syrup yield on top of the regular leaf litter and timber yield that maples can provide.

Has anyone successfully incorporated sugar maple into a food forest here? Are their microclimate issues that would prevent a sugar maple from yielding delicious syrup that can be designed into a food forest to circumvent the climate differences between the northwest and northeast?

Thanks to anyone who has thoughts on or experience with trying to produce maple syrup in the PNW.
 
Gordon Hogenson
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You might want to look into tapping the native Big Leaf maple for syrup. Here is one resource:
http://www.blmaple.net/
 
Kyle Williams
Posts: 53
Location: Olympia, WA
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Someone once told me that Bigleaf maples couldn't be tapped for syrup... once again proving why I love this community and why I shouldn't believe everything I hear. Thanks for that link. I am still curious if Sugar Maples would do well here or not... never hurts to diversify.
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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dunno about sugar maples. I tried to order some sugaring equipment a few years back to try out on the bigleafs, but the folks wouldn't sell me stuff out of season and I was busy with other things when they were ready. having cut off a bigleaf limb during a warm day this spring, I can tell you that they produce a large amount of sap.

you might also look into other trees. alders, birches, eucalyptus. there are plenty of trees that grow well here and produce edible sap if the sugar maples don't work out for you.
 
Cee Ray
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Location: BC Interior, zone 5a
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birch and red alder were also traditionally tapped for syrup
 
Jordan Lowery
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I've had big leaf maple syrup it's pretty bland compared to some good sugar maple syrup. Not as sweet as store syrup, I added local honey to mine.

I also looked into growing sugar maples here in California and found out they need real cold winters, like below zero weather. I have plans to try and plant some at a friends who lives at high elevation. He has winter lows below zero. That is if he still lives there when they are mature.

 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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I have to wonder if the winters are too warm to get the sap flows that we have here in PA. Tapping starts here in Feb. when the day time temps get up to 40, but it is still freezing at night.
kent
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I think he winters in Western OR and WA are too warm, since sap flows require that regular freeze and thaw... but that's just my idle speculation..
 
Dave Miller
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Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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When we were in MA about 18 years ago I picked up a tiny maple seedling from underneath a big sugar maple, brought it home and planted it in our yard. It is about 10" in diameter now but I have never tried to get sap from it. I live in Camas, WA, just across from Portland. So yes they will grow here, but I don't know if they would produce sap.
 
tel jetson
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if there's a dormant season, sap's gonna flow some time. just a matter of finding the most suitable trees for the climate. sugar maple prolly isn't it in our relatively mild corner of the planet.
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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On our woodlot the sugar maples and red maples reproduce like weeds.
kent
 
Kyle Williams
Posts: 53
Location: Olympia, WA
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So what causes sap flow? In any tree that can be tapped for it anyway. Does a tree feel the need to get the juices flowing after a freeze to make sure all of its part stay alive? Does the sap flow after a freeze for this reason? Or is it just what they do after a period of dormancy? Does the period of dormancy have to be a certain length of time to even get a sap flow, or does the length of dormancy determine the magnitude of the sap flow?
 
John Polk
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Here are a couple of quick reads on maple syrup production from Michigan St. Univ.
(The second one is various forest crops, maple included).

http://www.for.msu.edu/uploads/files/extension/facts17.pdf
http://www.for.msu.edu/uploads/files/extension/facts3.pdf

 
Jeff Cope
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I've wondered about trying some sugar production in the Bay Area and looked into it a little. I did some maple sugaring as part of teaching at a nature center when I lived in PA and New England. Sugar production there is high when the weather is clear, in late winter, leading to cold cold nights and warm(er) sunny days. (but still colder than any day in deep winter where you and I live now) The contrast between night and day was the main driver of sugar production. There was a huge difference not only in sap production but sugar content of sap depending on the weather, and since at best you have to boil off about 40 gallons of water from the sap to get a gallon of syrup, trying to produce it in much less ideal climate could be amazingly expensive (fuel) and time consuming for a product that will end up being inferior in taste anyway. The season was over in a few weeks; by the time it was warm enough for anything to be leafing out the sap was useless (bitter/sour). And then there's global warming, which may be warming nights more than days where you are, making it even less ideal for sugar production...

If the amount of lead time it will take to grow maple trees and find out whether you've wasted your time and money and land for nothing isn't daunting, go for it. Write back in 10 or 20 years and let us know. However......

There are lots! of plants used to make syrups and sugars outside the eastern deciduous forest, including berries, apples, other fruits, roses, pines, birches, and rhubarb, in addition to sugar beets and cane. In each case there's a reason they aren't (with the exception of blue- and strawberries, birches---and rhubarb, sorta) a major product of commerce or home production for syrup or grown outside a limited area. As for maples, the website below suggests Douglass maple for SE Alaska; maybe it will work for your area too. If I were in the PNW I'd go for raspberry and blackberry syrup instead.

See: www.birchboy.com/articles.html#home

It's part of a larger question many are researching and experimenting with. John Jeavons' figures on how much land it takes to feed a person are the basis for thinking about what to grow and how much to expect. Carbohydrates are relatively easy (fruits and vegetables, potatoes, grains, beans, shrooms (and all those rapidly popularizing perennial vegetables...see Eric Toensmeier). Proteins are harder but not much harder (small numbers of permacultured livestock if you're into that sort of thing to supplement the perfectly adequate plant proteins and some source of B12). Various estimates of how much land to simply survive are available, but if you want to add even tiny amounts of sugar, and fats or oils to that basic amount the space requirements go way up way fast, in most climates.


http://deanom.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/how-much-land-do-i-need-to-grow-all-of-my-food/
and I'm sure there was a thread about the subject on this site a while back with lots of figures and ideas.
 
Tim Crowhurst
Posts: 45
Location: Bedford, England: zone 8/AHS 2
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Jeff Cope wrote:There are lots! of plants used to make syrups and sugars outside the eastern deciduous forest, including berries, apples, other fruits, roses, pines, birches, and rhubarb, in addition to sugar beets and cane. In each case there's a reason they aren't (with the exception of blue- and strawberries, birches---and rhubarb, sorta) a major product of commerce or home production for syrup or grown outside a limited area. As for maples, the website below suggests Douglass maple for SE Alaska; maybe it will work for your area too. If I were in the PNW I'd go for raspberry and blackberry syrup instead.


One plant you could go for is Boston ivy (also known as Japanese ivy, Grape ivy or Japanese creeper). Prior to the introduction of sugar-cane, the Japanese boiled down the sap of Boston ivy for use as a sweetener in Wagashi, a type of confectionery.
 
Matthew Winger
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We've got a stand of mature sugar maples on our property up here in central British Columbia, and I've just finished boiling down my first gallon of syrup from them. Someone was kind enough to bring them out here around 50 odd years ago, and it sounds like no one out here had ever gotten around to actually tapping them. You can grow sugar maples out here in the PNW, but for a good sap run, you need nights below freezing, and days above freezing. We had around a 5 week season this year and I got around 160 litres of sap from six trees.

Good luck! Also, black, silver, douglas, and big leaf are all worth tapping and boiling if you can find large enough tree (10" diameter at chest height is the minimum size). Also, make sure you collect the sap at least every other day. It's like milk and will go sour on you if you leave it too long. I found it easier to just toss some plastic carboys full of sap in the freezer until I had enough to be worth boiling down.
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