By Russell Gienapp
In the world of food items there are few things that are more taken for granted than maple syrup. How do you explain to a young child the concept of taking 40 bottles of the sap of a tree to get the one bottle of syrup sitting on the breakfast table?
“Well honey, they collect the sap from maple trees and they boil”… “What is sap”? She says, “How do they get it out of the trees”? “Well sap is a combination of water and foods, like sugar, that the tree sends to the leaves and back down to the roots to help it grow”. I said, “Kind of like your blood”. Simple wonder turns to downright concern. “What! This is TREE BLOOD”? Backpedal, backpedal, and quick think of something. “Ah”… “Hmmm”… “Go get your rubber boots honey, I need to dig myself out of a hole here”.
If you are lucky enough to live near a sugar bush you not only get a wonderful afternoon out in the woods, numerous opportunities for lessons on 3 of the 4 fields of science, you get pancakes! It has become a yearly ritual for our family in celebration of the soon coming spring.
Call a sugar producer
Weather dependent, sugar shacks will open their doors from February to April. You should call the maple sugar producer and find out if the sap is running. They are a hive of activity when it is above freezing in the day and bellow freezing at night. They have a very short time to collect the sap as the flavor goes bad when the tree buds.
You can start at the top of a hill of hardwoods and walk your way down following the now modern tubes that progressively get larger as you get closer to the sugar shack. On a good day you can hear the sap rushing into the collector tanks.
There is nothing quite as pleasing to the nose than walking into the building where hundreds of liters of sap are being boiled down into maple syrup in a hardwood fired evaporator. It is like walking into a maple-scented sauna.
Nip some sap
During the walk, make sure to stop and nip some sap out of a bucket (there are usually a few around for nostalgia) and have a sip. I bring my daughter over to the bucket and proudly proclaim, “This is where they get the sap” “See it dripping”? “Oh!” She takes a sip, “Mmmm, this is yummy”. I am so glad there is no more talk of blood.
Click here for where to go sugar bushing in Canada and US.
Russell Gienapp is an international freelance cinematographer and feels lucky to make his living doing what he loves in life. Being a cinematographer in the film and television industry, demands skills both creative and physical. His office ranges from the steamy tropics to cold artic conditions. Russell is also the other part of Activekidsclub.com and he lives our motto, “No bad weather, just bad clothing”, everyday when he is on the job or outside teaching his daughter Nature's little secrets.