Why maple syrup is now less of a sweet story
Seesawing temperatures confuse trees, meaning their sap is less sugary.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
Ah, heaping stacks of pancakes. Fresh off the griddle, they make the mouth water, especially when covered by liberal lashings of syrup.
And for purists, that means sweet and tasty 100% maple syrup, not the corn-based concoctions from brands such as Log Cabin and Aunt Jemima (last year renamed as Pearl Milling Company Syrup after complaints about racial stereotyping).
Well, maybe not so sweet. And for that you can blame climate change.
Yes, it turns out that wild swings in temperatures caused by global warming are severely affecting sap production in the U.S.’s northeast and eastern Canada. For example, reports Gothamist, excessively warm winter and spring temperatures in 2021 brought the tapping season to a screeching halt, resulting in a 20% shortfall in New York, a major syrup state.
Another factor: hotter and dryer summers, especially true in 2020. “That's because the trees that we rely on to make maple syrup do most of their growth in the summertime,” said Pamela Templer, a biology professor and forest ecologist at Boston University. “If the conditions are right in summer — it’s not too hot, its not too dry — then the trees are going to have higher rates of photosynthesis.”
The more photosynthesis, she explained to Gothamist, the more sugar the trees can produce. But 2020’s summer led to poor growing conditions and less sugar in sap the following spring.
Yes, less sugar. In other words, your syrup could be less sweet. But it isn’t; instead, producers have to boil off more of the sap to concentrate the sugar, meaning higher prices and/or lower profits. “The sugar content in the sap was lower, and I mean a lot lower,” said David Hall, an official a group called Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, of last year’s crop. “We had plenty of sap. It just had no sugar in it.”
It all brings a sour taste to your mouth.