By Annalie Mallon, Education Intern
Howdy Kids! I hope everyone has been venturing outside to enjoy this lovely weather!
Here at the Delaware Nature Society we are in the midst of prime maple sugaring season. The most exciting part about this is that our family maple sugaring program and pancake breakfast is being held THIS upcoming Saturday, Feb. 27th!
If you have ever wondered how maple syrup is created (spoiler alert: I’m about to share some of the secrets below) then head on over to Ashland Nature Center to find out AND get a chance to make and taste your own!
Mmmmmmm maple syrup. That sticky sweet deliciousness that you lovingly pour over fluffy pancakes to make them taste a little bit more like heaven. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine sure is!
But from where does this delicious treat come? For those of you who do not know, we get maple syrup from Maple trees! In the late Winter months, like February and March, when the temperature starts to get warmer during the day (around 40 degrees) but remains freezing over night, tree sap that has been stored in the trees roots all winter starts making some moves. The sap (which is made up of over 97% water and less than 3% sugar) acts as a source of food and nutrients for the tree. It rises up through the trunk during those warmer days and starts to make its way to the branches and buds so that new leaves can grow come spring! It is during this wonderful time of the year that people harvest that sap and use it to make maple syrup!
To start the process, we choose a Maple tree that is old enough to be tapped. To check if a tree is old enough, we measure how wide it is. If it is at least twelve inches in diameter, we can use it! We grab our handy hand drill to drill a small two inch deep hole into the tree. Don’t worry though, this does not hurt the tree. We then tap a tool called a spile right into the newly drilled hole and watch as sap starts to drip out! Check out the picture below and see if you can spot the drop of sap coming off the end of the spile..
Once the sap starts to flow, we hook one of these blue collecting bags onto the spile and wait for it to fill…
Woah check it out! The whole bag filled up over the weekend!
Once we have collected enough sap, we bring it back to the nature center and begin the process of turning it into syrup.
Pouring the sap into a big pan being heated over a fire, we boil it down so that a majority of the water evaporates out of it and we are left with a small amount of sweet sugary liquid that we call syrup!
It takes between 60 – 90 gallons of Maple sap to make only 1 gallon of syrup! That is a LOT of sap! No wonder pure maple syrup is expensive!
Fun Fact: Maple Syrup is made only in North America! Canada is the largest producer, but the state of Vermont comes in at a close second (they produce over a million gallons per season!). This is because our unique climate of warm days and freezing nights plus all of the maple trees that we have is not very common anywhere else!
Would you and your family be interested in seeing how this process works and then get to eat a bunch of pancakes? Join us this weekend and work up an appetite while walking to our maple trees to learn how Native Americans developed the technique of producing maple syrup. Discover why settlers relied on this source for many years and how syrup farmers make this product today. See how we tap trees at Ashland and how other animals might be doing the same. Then boil down some sap into syrup and taste it before returning for a pancake and maple syrup brunch!!
Saturday, February 27, 10am – Noon
Members: $7, Others: $12
Meets at Ashland Nature Center, 3511 Barley Mill Road Hockessin, DE 19707
Call (302) 239-2334 or click Here to register!