Bigleaf maple syrup is growing industry on Vancouver Island

WatchThe illegal tapping of maple trees in a Saanich park is being criticized by Bigleaf maple syrup makers on Vancouver Island, who discourage people from tapping anything that isn't theirs. Maple syrup is a growing industry here, and as Skye Ryan reports, it is open to anyone with big leaf maples in their yard.  

With her tiny baby in tow, Katherine Backlund was on a hunt Thursday looking for signs of the right Bigleaf Maple tree to tap on her Ladysmith land.

“These are sapsucker holes,” said Backlund pointing at a row of pea-sized holes in the trunk of a Bigleaf Maple tree.

“The best clue to tap a good maple tree.”

Where sapsucker birds have been so is the sap you need to make maple syrup.

“And I love syrup,” said Backlund.

So with a drill and hammer in hand, the second generation maple syrup maker tapped into a natural resource that abounds on Vancouver Island.

“It feels like farming,” said the 32-year-old.

She comes by it naturally. Her dad Gary Backlund literally wrote on the book on Bigleaf maple syrup making here, called “Bigleaf Sugaring: Tapping the western maple,”  18 years ago.

“You’re harvesting from the wild,” said Backlund.

“It’s fun, it’s exciting.”

Bigleaf maple syrup making has become a popular trend on Vancouver Island and Backlund says the growth potential is huge. Though he doesn’t recommend people go tapping other people’s trees or those in public parks like happened in Saanich this week. 

“Bigleaf Maple is the second most abundant tree in North America,” said Backlund.

“So there’s lots of trees. It’s just a matter of ramping up with production because the demand outstrips production incredibly.”

Three First Nations on Vancouver Island have already started small industries making maple syrup, but Backlund says no one can keep up with demand.

It does take a lot of work though. To make a single bottle, you need to collect and process 16 litres of sap.

“Like farming, it’s a lot of work,” said Backlund.

Anyone interested is welcome to attend the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival at Duncan’s BC Forest Discovery Centre Feb 1 and 2.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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