10 Jun 2021

Maple syrup in New Zealand: Trial aims to test sap production

4:41 pm on 10 June 2021

A trial near the Canterbury village of Hanmer Springs aims to see if maple syrup can be produced in New Zealand.

The maple tree plantation at Hanmer Springs.

The maple tree plantation at Hanmer Springs. Photo: University of Canterbury

A small plantation of maple trees was planted there last autumn by the University of Canterbury.

Despite Canada's freezing winters playing a pivotal role in its maple syrup production, research team lead Professor Matt Watson believes sap production can happen here.

"We planted our first maple saplings near Hanmer Springs last autumn and will coppice-prune them to keep them small.

"We're now working with other landowners to establish additional small-scale plantations, each with around 100 trees," he said.

He believes the secret is young trees closely spaced in a horticultural-style row-crop.

Watson said this winter sap would be extracted from the trees so the sugar concentration could be measured.

A trial plantation of birch trees was also planned - birch syrup is produced in a similar way to maple syrup but has a more savoury taste.

"In conjunction with iwi, our research team is also hoping to identify native tree extracts that may be useful as components in food or rongoā," Watson said.