In 1998 my wife and I bought an old farmstead in central Wisconsin so that our four daughters could grow up in the wild freedom and natural living that country life can provide. One of the many jewels this farmstead boasted was over 40 adolescent maple trees, tucked away in the back yard, hidden from passersby. These trees were planted in exact rows and columns, creating a glorious colonnade of green foliage in the summer and golden leaves in the fall.
When we first started making maple syrup in 2011, we found out that the trees were considered experimental maple trees, part of a 1982 state program which involved the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association. Botanists in Vermont collected seeds from “supersweet” wild maples whose sap tested from 4% to 10% sugar (compared to 2% to 3% for the average maple). The seeds were then planted into pots at a state nursery near Wisconsin Rapids.
Due to high interest in the program, the state drew lots to determine who could purchase the seedlings. The previous owners of our farmstead were one of those chosen, and fortunately for us, they chose to plant the prized seedlings in their back yard. They found out in subsequent years at Maple Syrup Producers Association meetings that many of the other seedlings in the program did not fare well. The other syrup producers planted them in or near their maple sugar woods, which exposed the baby trees to drought, deer, mice, and smothering by grass. Because the bulk of the seedlings did not survive, the state program was dropped.
Now, so far half of our trees have reached tapping size, but the sap we do collect has yielded a 6% to 8% sugar content. And while we also tap a variety of other maple trees for sap, the syrup that these “supersweet” trees produce has always been robust in flavor. Originally my family and I enjoyed these trees for their majestic beauty, but now we treasure them all the more for their unique origin and prized sweetness.
Skinny Sticks’ Maple Syrup