By: Sara Khan Photo Credit: Anas Alkatib
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Starting off the day with the sweet taste of syrup on pancakes seems almost like a perfect morning. However, the best syrup isn’t the one you would normally buy at your local
grocery store. The best syrup, as I just experienced recently, is freshly made.

Northeastern parts of North America have suitable weather conditions for maple syrup production. Vermont is the largest maple syrup producer in the United States. Luckily for us, we are also part of the Northeast and have the resources and weather required for making maple syrup.

Our East West Link team took a trip to the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Environmental Interpretive Center where we learned how to identify Sugar Maple trees as well as the process for making maple syrup. It turns out that this is a simple, yet labor intensive task. It actually takes 30-50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.  
         
The sap, from which maple syrup is made, flows inside the Sugar Maple trees. This sap is the tree’s source of nutrition. Although the sap flows all year, it is tapped only during the winter-to-spring transition which lasts for  about 6 weeks. This is because when spring starts, the buds start to form and that causes chemical changes within the tree which in turn causes an off-flavor in the sap. A freezing night followed by a warm day is the ideal condition for good sap flow inside the trees. Once the sap is flowing, we are able to tap the trees and collect the sap in buckets. 
               
To determine whether a tree is suitable for tapping, some measurements must be taken. It should be at least 30 years old and 12 inches in diameter. The larger the tree is, the more it can be tapped. This is done to ensure that we don’t take away so much sap from the trees that it ends up harming them. 
                
The tapping process begins by drilling a small hole about two inches deep into the tree. A spout is then inserted into the hole to allow sap to flow out into the bucket, which is attached to the end of the spout.
               
After collecting the sap, it is taken to an evaporator, where the boiling process occurs. Sap is naturally 97% water. It takes about 6 hours for the water to evaporate, leaving mostly sugar. Once the water has evaporated, the maple syrup is filtered, removing all unwanted particles. After that, the maple syrup is done and ready to be packed and served. 
                
Personally, I had never had pure maple syrup before and after trying it  for the first time I absolutely loved it. Not only does it taste better than normal maple syrup, but it has been proven to be healthier as well. 
                
The makeup of real maple syrup and the fake maple syrup is very different. The fake maple syrup has a corn syrup base and has added artificial flavors, one of them being sodium hexametaphosphate which is an ingredient used
in soap. The fake maple syrup is made up of mainly sugars with no vitamins and minerals. 

Pure maple syrup, on the other hand, has no added flavors at all and contains zinc and manganese which actually aid in strengthening the immune system. In addition to that, it also contains small amounts of other beneficial vitamins and minerals. One of the major advantages of pure maple syrup is the presence of phytochemicals which  helps prevent diseases from occurring. 

Based on my personal experience, I would encourage everyone to go out and have a taste of the natural maple syrup while it lasts!