In case you were wondering why that bottle of pure maple syrup is priced more like a brick of pure gold these days, it’s all about cycles.
As Dana Wildes, a fourth-generation Vermont maple syrup producer, recently told National Geographic magazine, “We go through cycles, and we’re in a cycle.”
Many believe that climate change is the primary culprit, as the critical springtime “freeze-thaw” process that sap goes through has declined by about 10 percent (or 3.2 days) in the past 40 years.
Simply stated, the process involves a maple tree’s sap freezing overnight as air temperatures dip, and then thawing out during the warmer daylight hours. Knowing when to “tap” the trees – when the sap is at just the right stage – takes years of experience. But even veteran syrup producers are having difficulty estimating when that period will arrive, and the ultimate result is less sap.
This creates a perfect storm: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup. Less sap means less syrup, and less syrup, combined with high demand, means sky-high prices.
Once you’ve had real maple syrup – whether dark, light or medium in hue – there’s no going back to supermarket brands of syrup that contain little or no maple. And that only exasperates the problem by further increasing demand for the real thing.
For a pancake, waffle or French toast lover, it’s a gastronomic and economic conundrum with no easy solution.