Sweet sign of spring

Recently researchers at the University of Rhode Island made headlines with intriguing discoveries concerning maple syrup. According to the University’s press release, some fifty compounds have been identified in the sticky stuff. Several of these compounds were found to be anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting. Further, the research shows a potential link between certain compounds and blood sugar regulation. While we’re going to have to wait for the published findings of the study, and future research, we don’t have to wait long for maple syrup. Sap is flowing in Nova Scotia, and the boils have begun! So let’s review what we already know about maple syrup.

maple syrupIn Canada maple syrup is graded and classified by colour. Number one grade, which ranges from extra light to medium is commonly used as a table syrup. Number two, is generally more amber in colour and used for flavouring and baking, as it is stronger and less-refined. Number three is generally dark. Because it is the least refined, number three retains more nutrients and you will generally find it on the shelves of your local health food store. These nutrients include several of the B vitamins, as well as important minerals such as zinc, manganese, calcium and iron. But keep in mind, maple syrup is still a fairly calorie-dense delight, so moderation is key.

Another point of interest is that maple syrup is pure. It is comprised of only sap and water, without fillers or preservatives. Despite this, the syrup has a long shelf-life and once opened can be refrigerated, or left in a cool, dark place for up to six months. Further, while formaldehyde was once used in the tapping process that leads to sap extraction, this practice is forbidden in Canada. So, you can trust that a graded syrup is safe to consume.

And consume we will. Now is the time to get out there and make your way to a maple festival or tour a sugar shack. The sweet treats will be aplenty, including maple sugar, candy, baked treats and maple flavoured coffee. You can also enjoy the experience of getting close to a local, natural product.

-Shara Vickers