It’s Canada Day today! I didn’t need to think at all about what I would want to write a post on for Canada’s birthday. The obvious answer is hinted at by the Canadian flag. Maple syrup always comes up when I discuss Canadian foods with Canadians. As a native to New England, I always feel compelled to point out the maple syrup is produced in the US too! However, this sweet and delicious product appears to be as special to Canadians as is hockey, so I think it’s just fine to let them have the majority of the maple syrup glory. This will be short and sweet, like the maple leaf (okay, I admit, that the “shortness” of the maple leaf is debatable, but you cannot say that it lacks for sweetness!).
To what do we owe the sweetness of maple syrup?
Maple syrup is:
- 50 to 75 % sucrose (table sugar)
- up to 10 % glucose
- up to 4 % fructose
Why does maple syrup have so much more flavor than sugar (i.e. sucrose)? Although maple syrup is mostly sucrose, it is still a complex mixture of other chemicals, including but not limited to:
- minerals: manganese, potassium, magnesium and calcium
- vitamins: such as riboflavin (or vitamin B2), niacin and vitamin A
- organic acids: mostly malic acid and trace amounts of citric acid, fumaric acid and succinic acid
Let’s not forget that maple syrup also contains high amounts of another chemical, dihydrogen monoxide, aka water!
Happy birthday, Canada! Thank you for all the delicious maple syrup your produce, and for giving me an excuse to write this teeny bit about a natural sweetener. If you’re interested in learning more about synthetic sweeteners, you should check out Hasan Khan’s posts on aspartame and sucralose, neotame, saccharin with special natural guest, stevia.
Want to learn more about the nutritional content and how maple syrup is made? Check out these resources:
Maple syrup nutritional facts by the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association Inc.
Chemistry of Maple Syrup by Stephen Childs for the Cornell Maple Bulletin 202 (2007) and adapted from C.O. Willits and C.H. Hill 1976. Maple Syrup Producers Manual. USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 134 and North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual, 2nd ed, 2006.
The chemical composition of 80 maple syrup samples produced in North America by Jackie G. Stuckel & Nicholas H. Low, Food Research International, Vol. 29, Nos 34, pp. 313-319, 1996.
Canada/Canadian flag via Wikimedia Commons