For Levi, 8, Lex, 6, and Lawson Klopfenstein, 3, maple syrup is among their favorite foods- at least according to their dad. The boys and their parents attended the maple syrup workshop held at Oakland Mills on Saturday, March 23.
After three years of canceling due to poor weather conditions, Henry County Conservation Naturalist Cari Nicely said she was excited to finally present.
“Nature is amazing and it can do neat things, we just have to take the time to check them out and explore,” she said. “You can hear about it, big deal, but you’ve just got to see it.”
She began the program by explaining two legends of how maple syrup was discovered.
The first is that a Native American threw a tomahawk at a tree and saw a liquid come out. He collected it and used it to boil his deer meat in, discovering it caramelized and became a syrup. The second is another Native American tasted an icicle hanging from a tree and found it was sweeter than others. In both cases, they were from maple trees which brought the syrup to realization.
She said there are many other legends like this but it is unknown how it was officially discovered. One thing she knows for sure is that once the pioneers came along, the process of boiling and evaporating, that is done today, was developed.
When sap comes from the tree, it is a clear liquid that is only about 2 percent sugar. Compared to a watermelon, which is about 10 percent sugar, it is five times less sweet. She said any kind of maple, as well as birch and box elder trees, can be tapped.
One tap can produce 10 gallons of sap and once it is boiled down, that only creates about 1 quart of syrup. It would take 40 gallons of sap to create 1 gallon of syrup. Once it is boiled, the sap turns to syrup and is 67 percent sugar.
Nicely passed out samples of sap, store-brand syrup and real maple syrup for people to try. Although the kids liked the store brand better, almost all of the adults agreed the syrup right from the tree was superior.
After the short program, Nicely took the group outside to try tapping a tree. She explained a seven-sixtheeenth-inch hole about 3 inches deep was the best way to collect sap. To collect it, she then inserted a sipe made of sumac. Levi Klopfenstein, 6, tried the sap straight from the tree and decided it tasted like water with just a little sugar in it.
Nicely said getting people out of the classroom and into the woods to see how the process is done is what conservation education is all about.
“You guys got to taste sap in a cup that I already had, but now look at him,” she said, referencing Levi. “He’s tasting sap right out of the tree. That’s a magical experience that he hopefully won’t forget.”
She said because maple syrup is a staple in most people’s homes, this workshop can apply to almost everyone because learning where food comes from is a big part of life.
“Nature is amazing and it can do neat things, we just have to take the time to check them out and explore,” she said.