Ohio State University Extension Bulletin
North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual
Bulletin 856
Chapter 2 · History of Maple Syrup and Sugar Production

Maple syrup and sugar production predate the establishment of both the United States of America and the Canadian Federation. Production of this unique product is one of the few agricultural endeavors not brought to this continent by European settlers. The production process and practices have survived to the present and represent an interesting developmental and historical account.

Origins of Maple Syrup Production

Native Americans were the first to discover the fact that sap from maple trees could be processed into maple syrup. While there are no authenticated accounts of how this process was discovered there are several interesting legends. Undoubtedly these have been modified over time, but it is likely this discovery was accidental.

One popular legend involves a Native American chief who supposedly hurled his tomahawk (probably in disgust) at a tree. The tree happened to be a maple, and sap began to flow. The clear liquid that dropped from the wound was collected in a container that happened to be on the ground below. His wife, believing the liquid was water, used it to cook venison. Following cooking, both the meat and the sweet liquid that remained were found to be delicious. Retracing how this occurred revealed that sweet sap from the maple trees was the only difference. The process was repeated and the rest is now history.

There are other variations to this legend, yet the fact remains that wounding a tree late winter/early spring resulted in the production of a clear liquid that could be processed into a deliciously sweet product that had many uses.


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