What is ambrosia maple? While the term might remind you of Greek mythology and the immortality-giving “nectar of the gods,” ambrosia wood has far humbler origins: a tiny beetle which burrows into wood, creating striking, unique patterns.
Ambrosia maple is simply the wood harvested from maple trees affected by the ambrosia beetle in this way.
While ambrosia beetles can be found in many types of wood, at Spencer Peterman we work with locally and sustainably sourced ambrosia maple. All of our ambrosia maple bowls are adorned with one-of-a-kind natural markings created by the ambrosia beetle.
The ambrosia beetle is a symbol of transformation, which only seems appropriate for an insect that can turn a simple piece of wood into a natural, lasting work of functional art.
How Beetles Create Ambrosia Wood
Ambrosia beetles generally attack stressed, dying, or dead trees, but they may also invade freshly cut lumber. These beetles bore holes into trees or wood, and one key sign of an ambrosia maple infestation is an accumulation of boring dust (also known as frass) at the base of a tree, or frass tubes emerging from boring holes in the tree’s bark.
Like some species of ants and termites, ambrosia beetles are fungus-farming insects. They cultivate one specific fungus, the ambrosia fungus. Ambrosia beetles and ambrosia fungi have a symbiotic relationship. This fungi is the beetle’s sole food source, and is not found outside of the ambrosia beetle’s environment.
As ambrosia beetles bore into a tree, they inoculate the tunnel walls with ambrosia fungi. Over time, they continue to grow this fungus in “fungal gardens” that feed the ambrosia beetle adults and larvae. As it grows, the fungus blocks the tree vessels that transport water and nutrients from the roots to the stems and leaves, which may contribute to the death of infested plants.
The streaks in ambrosia wood are fungal stains from the fungal farming process. These streaks range in color from bluish-gray to brown.
Ambrosia maple can look similar to spalted maple. While both spalted and ambrosia maple are the result of fungal growth in wood, only ambrosia maple involves the work of insects AND fungi in tandem.
Is Ambrosia Maple Food Safe?
Just like spalted maple, ambrosia maple is 100% food safe and suitable for wooden kitchenware. We kiln dry all of our boards and bowls as part of the production process in order to get the wood to the correct moisture levels. The kiln drying process kills any insects or fungi that might still be present in the wood.
Of course, it’s important to properly clean and sanitize wooden kitchenware of all wood types. You can find our recommendations for wooden bowl and board cleaning right here.
How We Make Our Ambrosia Maple Kitchenware
At Spencer Peterman, we are committed to sustainability. In our Western MA workshops, we work exclusively with locally sourced logs that would otherwise be chipped, burned, or tossed. Our expert woodworkers give this wood new life as beautiful and functional pieces for your home and kitchen.
In particular, we love working with wood that contains what could be considered “imperfections,” such as burl wood, spalted maple, and ambrosia maple. All three of these materials are simply the result of a tree’s exposure to the world–and there’s nothing unusual or imperfect about that. Even though these materials are more challenging to work with, the results are worth it.
Our ambrosia maple boards and bowls are truly a collaboration between humans and nature–in this case, a humble beetle and its favorite food.
Our Ambrosia Maple Collection
Classic Round Bowls
Our Classic Round Ambrosia Maple Bowls range in size from 10” to 21”, and feature a clean, smooth edge. They’re perfect for everything from individual salad bowls to serving, depending on the size.
Live Edge Oval Bowls
Our Live Edge Oval Ambrosia Maple Bowls have an organic, oval shape and feature a natural edge that will bring a touch of the forest to your kitchen. They range in size from 10” to 21”.
These pair perfectly with any of our salad bowls. They’ll match well with our Ambrosia bowls, or couple them with our Ebonized Black, White Pearl, or Driftwood bowls for a contrasting pop of color. Our Ambrosia Maple Salad Tossers come in three sizes: 9”, 11.5”, and 13.5”.
Live Edge Cutting Board Slabs
These slabs bring a rustic element to serving and food prep. They range in size from 21-23”.