When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. Many of us have been doing just that during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Sean DiBartolo had maple trees, which don’t lend themselves to lemonade. So he chose to make maple syrup. Yup, right in his Verona backyard, with his Verona neighbors looking on in amazement.
Vermont is, by far, the largest maple syrup producer in the United States, accounting for almost half of the 4.3 million gallons produced here. New Jersey’s output is so small it doesn’t crack the top seven states. But boosting the state in the ranking tables wasn’t on DiBartolo’s mind when he began eyeing the maple trees in his backyard last fall.
All trees have sap running through them. Sugar maples are preferred for maple syrup production because they produce a lot of sap and it is high in sugar, but people do make syrup from other maples, as well as from birch and nut trees (we have those in Verona too). Draining some of the sap out of a tree doesn’t hurt it, but it can only be done in a very small number of weeks in late winter before branches start to develop their spring buds.
DiBartolo, a geotechnical engineer who serves on the Verona Environmental Commission, identified two of his backyard trees as maples before the leaves fell last fall. He had a bit of knowledge about tapping, having put a spigot in a tree for a science project when he was a fifth grader, but had never done the full…