As the climate changes, it’s unclear whether the maple syrup industry will be able to continue producing syrup on such a large scale. Researchers like Wild, the forest ecologist from Cornell, are studying whether syrup producers could tap other types of trees in the Northeast. Each species of tree comes with its own challenges. Some, like birch, have sap with only about half the amount of sugar as maple. Others, like walnut, produce less sap overall. Beech trees don’t create the same internal pressure as maples, so they require suction to remove their sap. And the syrup made from all these trees tastes different than that of sugar maples.
So the next time you drizzle maple syrup over pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal, remember: Making maple syrup isn’t easy—or cheap. But the effort is worth it, says Wild. Because at the end of the day, “you can’t beat the flavor of pure maple syrup.”