The Legend of Nokomis (the earth)
A native legend says that maple syrup was discovered by Nokomis (the Earth), grandmother of Manabush, a hero of numerous First Nations’ stories. It was Nokomis who first made a hole in the trunk of the maple tree and gathered its sap. Manabush, noticing that this sap was already sweet enough to be consumed, sought out Nokomis and told her:
“Grandmother, it’s not good thing that the trees produce sugar so easly. If men can collect sugar without effort, they will become lazy. We must make them work. Before tasting this exquisite syrup, it would be better for men to be forced to cut wood and stay up all night to watch the syrup cook.”
Manabush said no more, but fearing that Nokomis would ignore his concerns and do nothing to prevent man from becoming lazy, he climbed high into a maple tree with a bucketful of water and poured it right into the trunk, thus diluting the sugar that was in the tree.
The Origin of maple syrup
The Amerindians were the first to discover “sinzibuckwud”, the word that the Algonquins (an Amerindian tribe) used for maple syrup, meaning “drawn from wood”.
Types of maples
While the sugar maple is the main source of sap, there are two other types of sap-producing tree—red maple and silver maple—although their saps have lower concentrations of sugar.
Harvesting maple syrup
The Amerindians used their tomahawks to make V-shaped incisions in tree trunks. They then inserted reeds or concave pieces of bark to get the sap to run into birchbark buckets, and boiled the sap in clay vessels to obtain maple syrup.
Since maple syrup provided energy and nutrients, it was drunk as a sweetened beverage or used in cooking.
Early settlers and fur traders introduced wooden buckets into the process, along with iron and copper kettles.
Later, they began hanging their buckets from hand-made taps inserted into holes made in the maples.
Today over 85% of maple producers use a system of vacuum tubing that connects each of their maple trees. The tubing relies on gravity to direct the maple sap to a pumping station located at the lowest point in the sugarbush (a stand of maples). From there, it is pumped to a sugar shack where it is turned into maple syrup.