What's the Difference? Maple vs. Black Walnut Syrup

When we first moved in to the farm house, the black walnut trees were the bane of my existence.  I hated the huge tennis size balls that were all over the yard, rotting and smelling.  I tried collecting them as much as I could with small kids and it felt never ending.  Every fall we can't hang out at the swing set because of the "kamikaze bullets", as my dad termed them.  So when we first started talking about tapping the one maple tree for sap I learned that we could also tap the black walnut. So what's the difference?


The taste is actually pretty similar to maple syrup.  The syrup can be used on the same food items like pancakes.  The largest difference is the slight nutty flavor of the syrup.  Some also say it tastes like butterscotch.  Regardless, this slight flavor difference changes up the Sunday morning breakfast and adds a new culinary treat.  

Sugar Sand vs. Pectin

If you've never made maple syrup before, the "backyard" maple syrup produces have to strain their sap through cheese cloth.  There's sediment called "sugar sand" that collects and affects the clarity of the boiled down syrup.  A backyard maple producer cannot ever get all the sugar sand out of the syrup without complicated machinery.  It doesn't effect taste, just how clear it is.  

Black walnut has something called "pectin".  Pectin can make filtering the sap  extremely difficult and time consuming, and it clogs filters more rapidly than the sugar sand often found in maple syrup. So David and I often have to filter it multiple times in small batches, wash out the cheesecloth, then keep going.  

Production Amount

Black Walnut makes the same ratio of sap to syrup as a maple tree.  For every 40 gallons of sap, one gallon of syrup is made.  To be able to make syrup the sap is boiled down and all the water vapor leaves.  However, the largest difference is that maple tree produces almost three times the amount of sap as a black walnut tree.  So it takes us a lot longer to make syrup than if we used just maple trees.  This drives the price, so black walnut syrup will be more expensive than the local maple syrup (that is also more expensive than the store-bough maple syrup).  


So in the end after last year using the black walnuts to get about 3 quarts of the best tasting syrup I've ever had, I decided maybe I won't be calling anyone to come chop down and mill the tree.  As long as we can keep getting the syrup, I'll bite the bullet and admit that I actually like the black walnut trees (at least I do in spring).  I'll go back to hating them in the fall.