It’s finally spring and that heralds many things — shedding heavy clothing for one, and celebrating maple syrup season for another.

Canada produces about 85 per cent of the world’s maple syrup and sells to nearly 45 countries. The majority comes from Quebec, by far the world’s largest producer, with about 75 per cent of world production. Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia produce smaller amounts. Vermont is the largest U.S. producer along with other northeastern states.

Maple syrup is graded as: Canada #1: Extra Light, Light and Medium (for table use); Canada #2: Amber (stronger flavour, ideal for cooking), Canada #3: Dark (for commercial use only).

Beyond pancakes and waffles, maple syrup is tasty in many things, as these squares will attest. Be sure to buy Canadian and check the label says pure maple syrup.

Maple Walnut Oat Squares

Other nuts can be used in place of walnuts or add dried cranberries or raisins if you prefer. Makes 18 squares.

• 1/3 cup (75 ml) butter
• 1 cup (250 ml) pure maple syrup
• 2 cups (500 ml) rolled oats
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped walnuts
• 1 egg, lightly beaten

Line a 9-inch (23-cm) square baking pan with a parchment paper sling (a few inches of paper hanging over two ends). Spray the other 2 sides with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In medium saucepan, bring butter and maple syrup to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in oats, walnuts and egg, mixing well. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool 10 minutes or wire rack. Run a thin metal spatula around edges. Use the parchment paper overhanging ends to lift the entire slab to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into squares. Refrigerate, if desired, to firm up.

• Store maple syrup in the refrigerator.
• During the growing season, maple trees accumulate starch. With the spring thaw, enzymes change this starch into sugar, which mixes with the water absorbed through the roots, importing a slightly sweet taste. Maple sap contains water (about 97 per cent), minerals, organic acids and a mild maple flavour. In early March, the sap starts to run for about six to eight weeks.

Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.