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Fall Sugaring  RSS feed

 
Ct Gilliam
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Just curious if anyone here taps maple trees in the fall for a fall sugaring season? We typically tap our trees in January here in southern KY but I've read where some also tap in the fall. Just wondering if anyone here has had any success with this. Mostly I'm wondering about the flavor of the syrup. I'm considering trying it this year when the temperature gets right (probably next month) and seeing for myself but would love to hear your experience if you've tried this. I apologize if I posted under the wrong tab. I considered putting this under the homesteading tab but this seemed the closest fit. Thanks.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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This is coming from someone with NO experience in sugaring.

What I can speak of is the tree's life cycle.  In the fall they are putting away a lot of energy for next spring's reawakening.  In the spring a great surge of sugar and other needed substances flow up to prepare the tree for the year's season of photosynthesis.  Up flows the stored sugar and other needed substances, to make the leaves, to begin photosynthesis.

I have no idea if a person could get the sap when it is flowing down.  It would be an interesting experiment, and my guess is the flavor would have a different character.

Again it is speculation on my part, but my guess is that experienced sugarers know just how much sap they can take in a spring harvest, and my guess is there is a limited amount you can safely take from a tree with out endangering the health and longevity of the tree.  My conclusion is that if a person takes in the fall, they need to keep  in mind and factor the amount already taken, when spring comes, as there has been no chance for the tree to resupply.
 
Mike Jay
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I'm hoping someone with fall sugaring experience chimes in but here's my take on it.  I do spring sugaring and know a modest amount about syrup.

I've talked to a number of sugarmakers and none around here tap in the fall.  The common reasons given are that the fall weather is a bit less predictable relative to freeze/thaw cycles and also that there is too much other work to do at this time of year.  Around here it conflicts with fall harvests, high school sports and deer hunting.  In the spring there is much less going on.  I haven't talked to anyone who does fall syrup so I'm not sure if the flavor or yield are different.  You would be doing twice the taphole damage to the trees so you would want to be very conservative on tap count and use the treesaver (5/16" dia) taps for sure. 

Regarding the amount of sap taken vs the tree health, the info I've seen says that the little tap hole in the side of the tree does more damage than the loss of sap.  Big operations suck the sap out with vacuum pumps.  They have years of experience on the same sugarbushes pulling upwards of 20 gallons per tap hole and it isn't harming their trees.  With traditional buckets I do good to get 10 gallons per hole. 

But the damage to the circulatory system of the tree from the tap hole is a valid concern.  One hole is not a problem.  But years of tapping add up.  When you tap a hole, the tree compartmentalizes that section of the sapwood to the depth of the hole and a width of a couple inches and a height of 6" or so (going from memory, your experience may vary).  So that portion of the trunk can never transport sap again up into the tree.  Luckily the tree adds a growth ring each year which eventually bury that compartmentalized wood deeper in the trunk.  Eventually enough new wood has grown over that particular tap hole that you could tap in the same place and get sap.  So what I do is drill my holes in a spiral pattern year after year.  Each year the new hole goes 6" to the right and 2" above the old hole.  Then by the time I circle the tree about 4 times, the tree and I will be 36 years older.  Then I can start drilling at the bottom again and the 36" of new growth will be uncompartmentalized. 

My guidelines are to use 5/16" taps and use one tap if the tree is 12" diameter at chest height.  I'll add a second if it's 18".  If a tree has three big trunks coming from the same spot I'll treat each trunk as its own tree.

I hope this helps and I also hope a fall syrup person chimes in on yield and taste for you.
 
Ct Gilliam
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We have more trees to tap than we do taps. So I think we'll try it this year and see how it goes. I'm really curious about the taste. I know when the trees start budding in the spring it can give a bitter taste to the syrup. So I guess we'll see. I was just wondering if anyone here had tried it. I'll probably only tap 10 trees at first and see how it goes. I'm also wanting to try out the rocket stoves for boiling the sap down. It will be a fun experiement anyway.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Great to have so many trees!  For you, and so the research can be done without endangering stand.
 
Eric Hammond
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I just learned last week that black walnuts can be tapped for syrup! Some people hate to because it damages the value of a high dollar tree. However I never intend to cut mine and sell for money. I have an over abundance of black walnut and will be tapping them in the spring
 
fred hans
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Location: ohio
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i am not familiar with fall sugaring, but here in north east Ohio March is sugaring season.  i have also heard that hickory can be tapped and makes a good syrup.
 
Dave Bennett
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Ct Gilliam wrote:Just curious if anyone here taps maple trees in the fall for a fall sugaring season? We typically tap our trees in January here in southern KY but I've read where some also tap in the fall. Just wondering if anyone here has had any success with this. Mostly I'm wondering about the flavor of the syrup. I'm considering trying it this year when the temperature gets right (probably next month) and seeing for myself but would love to hear your experience if you've tried this. I apologize if I posted under the wrong tab. I considered putting this under the homesteading tab but this seemed the closest fit. Thanks.


I've never heard of such a thing.  Fall Sugaring?  I think it is a bad idea.  First of all trees are reducing sap flow as winter approaches.  I also believe that removing the "sugar" in the Fall prevents carbohydrate conversion that takes place in late winter as the "below 40F nights and above 40F days" approach signalling the beginning of "sugaring season."  I began tapping Sugar Maples in the early 50's as a youngster.  We only had 8 trees but they were gigantic and each held 6 or 7 taps.  It is my opinion that tapping trees in the Fall would seriously damage their health.  If it were viable to tap in the Fall up here in the Catskills/Adirondacks of upstate NY which is big time "Sugarbush Country" it would be done.  I grew up here and never heard of it.  I do know that late season (Spring) sap from Maples is very bitter.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Even if they use suction to remove sap from the trees, I still think there is an amount beyond which the tree has not the resources needed for decent spring recovery.

Interesting to know about the tap holes.  What does the wood look like from a tree that was tapped for sugar over a long term?  Seems like it might be interesting unique and beautiful grain, (spoken by a person who loves burls and the curved grain of branches).
 
Mike Jay
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If you search for "Maple tap hole wood" you can get some good images of what the wood looks like.  It is desirable in the right circles.  You can see in the trunk cross-sections how the overlapping holes and new wood look.   webpage
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I wanted to see if I could tap my siberian elm trees for sugaring, and found this nice blog post listing a few more trees, but no siberian elm.

http://dahedge.blogspot.com/2012/02/different-trees-that-can-be-used-for.html
 
Dave Bennett
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:I wanted to see if I could tap my siberian elm trees for sugaring, and found this nice blog post listing a few more trees, but no siberian elm.

http://dahedge.blogspot.com/2012/02/different-trees-that-can-be-used-for.html

I will look for the link to the trees that can be tapped for sugar.  There are at least 50 perhaps more. The meme is somewhere in my Facebook archive but finding it is far too challenging.  I will do a Google search.  The list is truly impressive.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks Dave.  I have several huge elms, could not possibly kill them, kind of trees.  It would be a lot of fun to make sugar.
 
Dave Bennett
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Thanks Dave.  I have several huge elms, could not possibly kill them, kind of trees.  It would be a lot of fun to make sugar.

I am sorry to say that I cannot upload the link.  My only internet access is the crappy cellphone.  I did do some research though and while there are 25 or 30 "sugar trees" that can be tapped it appears that it is a waste of time tapping elm trees because of the very low sugar content.  All deciduous trees that are dormant in the winter convert stored carbohydrates to sugar during their "reawakening" but generally speaking only maple trees produce copious quantities of sugar.  It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.  The closest species to maple takes approximately twice as much sap.  It certainly appears that tapping your elms would be an exercise in futility.  Sorry to be the bearer of negative news.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Dave Bennett wrote:
Thekla McDaniels wrote:Thanks Dave.  I have several huge elms, could not possibly kill them, kind of trees.  It would be a lot of fun to make sugar.

I am sorry to say that I cannot upload the link.  My only internet access is the crappy cellphone.  I did do some research though and while there are 25 or 30 "sugar trees" that can be tapped it appears that it is a waste of time tapping elm trees because of the very low sugar content.  All deciduous trees that are dormant in the winter convert stored carbohydrates to sugar during their "reawakening" but generally speaking only maple trees produce copious quantities of sugar.  It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.  The closest species to maple takes approximately twice as much sap.  It certainly appears that tapping your elms would be an exercise in futility.  Sorry to be the bearer of negative news.


Well thanks anyway.  You've saved me from trying.  I guess the important thing is that we don't concentrate a sap that has toxic substances in it.  I do know where there are black walnuts....
 
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