Crops & Plants

Maple syrup - the ultimate Canadian crop

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Stumbling on a new apple

The McIntosh apple has been one of the most successful apple varieties in history – but it was originally discovered by accident. In 1811, while clearing trees on his farm in Eastern Ontario, John McIntosh discovered small unknown apple trees amongst the yet-to-be cleared brush. He nursed and propagated the seedlings into his home garden. All but one eventually died — but the surviving tree eventually bore the fruit which we know today. Subsequent generations of McIntosh’s
family have perpetuated the species. It was no small feat, since the production of apples trees, unlike other crops, requires growers to graft seedlings or stems onto another tree trunk. Just planting the seeds found within the fruit itself results in crab apple trees, not the variety from which the seeds were originally taken. John’s son Allan learned to bud and graft fruit trees, handing them out as he travelled as a minister. A small nursery was also established. Allan’s son expanded the nursery into a commercial enterprise, marketing thousands of seedlings throughout the province. Over time, McIntosh apple trees were shipped around the world. The McIntosh apple is still a bit of a mystery, too. Apples as we know them today did not exist in North America before the arrival of Europeans. It’s likely the apple seedlings found by John McIntosh had been naturally cross-pollinated with one of these European varieties. The exact one, however, is still debated. John McIntosh helped propel an otherwise inconspicuous, unlikely fruit from a small Ontario woodlot to a globe-spanning staple. He was posthumously inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1984.

Maple syrup - the ultimate Canadian crop

Canada is a leader in the production of maple syrup, supplying about 71 per cent of the world market. Québec is by far the biggest maple syrup producer in Canada — more than 90 per cent of Canada’s maple syrup comes from that
province. Indigenous people taught early Canadian settlers how to harvest sap and boil it to make maple syrup. Maple sugar was the first kind of sugar produced in eastern North America, and remained the standard sweetener until 1875, when cane sugar became available.

Did you hear...

About the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist? In 2011 and 2012, thieves siphoned over $18 million worth of maple syrup from the world’s Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve facility, located in Québec. The perpetrators were eventually caught, and the majority of stolen syrup recovered.

Quick fact:

It takes almost 40 litres of raw maple sap to make one litre of maple syrup.