It is that time of year! Sap is pouring down lines and into buckets. Around 40 gallons of this precious liquid makes 1 gallon of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is one of the best sweeteners out there. While sweeteners as a whole should be limited and not staples, maple syrup is a delicious way to sweeten life without the health risks and guilt refined sugar brings you.
Here's a video about the benefits of maple syrup.
Here's a link to Rodale's article on the 11 healthiest foods, including maple syrup.
To make sure you buy the best, stick with locally made maple syrup from trusted farmers, or buy organic maple syrup in the grocery store. Years ago, formaldehyde was used to increase sap output. While this practice is not supposed to occur, it is possible that larger groups may still use the method. Also, some larger groups may add additives or artificial colorings to enhance the look of their maple syrup. (Reference)
Never, I repeat, NEVER buy the "pancake syrup" available in the grocery store. It is little more than GMO'd high fructose corn syrup with artificial colors and flavors.
Here are a couple of additional resources of buying maple syrup locally around New York State:
New York Maple (includes searchable map)
Maple Weekend (March 17-18, 2012 in New York State)
Personally, my brother makes a delicious maple syrup from his own trees, but to supplement, I like to go to Alp Farms in Ephratah, NY. He sells maple syrup at the best price I've ever found, and it is a delicious (and nutritious) dark amber, perfect for baking.