By Farmer Leo
There 128 species of maple.
Most species of maple grow to between 30 and 150 ft tall, some are shrubs that are less than 30 feet tall with multiple small trunks that stem from a central point at ground level.
There are a few maples from southern Asia and the Mediterranean region that are evergreen, but most maples are deciduous.
The iconic maple leaves can have mostly 3 to 9 lobes but some times 13. Maple leaves can also have separate small leaves that resemble the lobed leaves if the lobes were separated.
Maple flowers can be red, orange, yellow, or green, the maple flowers are a good early spring source of pollen and nectar for bees.
The strange fruit of the maple tree are often called polynoses, whirlybirds, helicopters, and maple keys. These seed distinctively occur in pairs each fruit has one seed enclosed in a small hard shell that is attached to the fibrous wing that gives it the semi-flight.
Maple wood is a beautiful wood, especially when it has the decorative special wood grain known as flame wood, quilt maple, birdseye maple, and burl wood. This strange grain happens randomly to a few maple species, it is relatively rare to be able to tell when the wood has the strange grain before the tree is cut.
How to grow red maple
Pick a spot in your yard that has full sun, moist soil, soil that is acidic or neutral, low soil salt levels, has at least 30 feet of clear space in every direction, and is not very close to a road because street salt used on snow. If you are in an area with problems from verticillium wilt, cancers, tar spot, anthracnose, or leaf spot you should perhaps not grow red maple. Because of the soft bark of maple trees you have to be careful not to damage the bark with lawn mowers and weed eaters. Plant maple trees 30 to 50 feet apart. Get maple trees sapling from a local nursery is possible. When planting dig a large hole twice as wide as it is deep, mix well rotted organic matter with the soil you dug out and re-fill the hole leaving a space the size of the root ball of the maple tree. Gently lift the tree out of the pot and set the root ball in the hole, then pack extra soil in any spaces around the root ball, water in well and if any new spaces form pack soil in them. Keep the soil moist if the summer is hot and dry you may have to water the mature tree, long and slow is best.
How to cook
Recipe: Maple syrup
First you need to tap the trees. The first thing you need to do before tapping the trees is to make sure that the sap is flowing, the sap will start flowing when the night time temperatures are below freezing and the day time temperatures are above freezing, when this ends the tapping season ends. Next you need to pick which trees to tap, you should only tap trees that are 10 or more inches in diameter and preferably only sugar maple and red maple. Now it is time to get the taps, most taps are the same and you are most likely to find them online. Next is the collection containers, buckets work well but they need to be covered and they can not be on the ground were the could be knocked over, so something like a bucket that you can tie or hang from the tree while the sap drips in to it but whatever you collect in needs to be clean. Peel any dry dead bark off the area you are tapping and wipe down with rubbing alcohol. Take a drill with a bit that has been sterilized and on the side of the tree that gets the most sun drill a hole under a large branch or somewhere else that would use a lot of nutrients. The hole should be around 4 feet from the ground and half an inch longer than your tap but the same diameter as your tap and the hole should be drilled at a slight downward angle so the sap runs into your tap, clear any debris out of the hole and then insert the tap. Tap four trees per gallon of maple syrup you want to get. Check your collection containers every day and freeze sap until the collection season is over.
Now it is time to make the sap into syrup. First filter the sap, pour it through a folded cheese cloth. If you have only a little bit you can boil it inside but more than a few gallons would damage your house so you should boil it outside. To build an out side boiler if you do not have something that will work, you start by digging a shallow hole and lining the walls with cinder blocks, then put a big fire grate on the cinder blocks to put pots on. If you have a big short cooking tray (preferably 18” by 2’ by 6” or bigger), other wise use as many 5 gallon pots as you can fit on your syrup boiler. Build a fire under the grate so the tips of the flame hit the bottom of the pots. A day or two before starting the fire you should take the sap out of the freezer to defrost. Once the fire is just starting fill the pots ¾ full of liquid sap to boil, you can leave any frozen sap in clean buckets near the fire to thaw as long as the buckets do not melt or burn. As the level of sap in the pots goes down add more, continue to do so until you are out of sap. You will have to watch the fire and the sap the whole time and it will take hours. When the sap is boiled down to the point when each pot is less than ¾ full you may want to put out the fire and bring the sap inside to finish the process. When you have it a more control ed climate use a candy thermometer to check the temperature, when the temperature gets to 219 degrees Fahrenheit remove from heat. During the cooking process debris will have gotten in the syrup and the boiling will have made niter so you need to strain it through the cheese cloth again, strain while it is hot or the syrup will try to stick the the cheese cloth.
Now however you want to store it do so and very importantly, enjoy!
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