People love tree sap! We put it on our food, eat it as candy, and some people even clean their skin with it!
I’m talking about the sap from the sugar maple tree, that delicious treat we know as maple syrup or maple sugar. We take the sap and boil out the water until it makes syrup, then take the syrup on our pancakes in the morning, cook it into cupcakes and cookies. We take the syrup and cook it even more until it turns into sugar, and then add it to fancy soap that we can scrub our faces with (the bumpy sugar helps scrub away dead skin cells), or just eat it plain. No one’s quite sure when people started using it, but we know that Native Americans were enjoying this sweet treat before the Europeans discovered this continent. They used it to flavor almost everything they ate, like we use salt today.
No one knows exactly how they found out that some trees have tasty sap, but there are a few different legends. One Iroquois legend says that a chief’s wife discovered maple syrup, when sap from a maple sugar tree fell into her bowl and she decided to make soup using the sap instead of going to get water. When the soup turned sweet, she realized that she had found a new, very good source of food.
The Lenni Lenape (also known as the Delaware) have a very different legend about maple syrup. In their story, the maple tree gave maple syrup as a present to the woodpeckers in exchange for eating the bugs that lived under the tree’s bark, and all the other animals were able to drink the sap as well. Humans learned about the maple tree’s gift by watching the animals, and then learned how to boil the sap down into sugar.
Before the Europeans came, the Lenni Lenape and other Native Americans didn’t have metal pots to boil maple sap in. How do you think they were able to make maple sugar?
Make a guess here! For parents and children 1&1/2 to 5 years old, you might enjoy our Maple Magic program on Monday, February 23rd, 9:30-11am at Ashland Nature Center. You will visit some maple trees to collect sap and make some maple syrup to taste over an open fire. Sign up for our Maple Magic program here and come visit us on the 23rd for an exciting and delicious program!