It is that time of year again for my family. No, not in Nebraska, but in Northern Ohio and elsewhere maple trees are ready to yield their sugary treat. When I was a child I thought it was January that the "sap" began to run. Yet I do remember celebrations as my relatives boiled down the sweet sap to delicious syrup to be applied to waffles, pancakes, french toast and, of course, ice cream. I think I also remember maple sugar candy being made. Yes, I definitely remember, at least, the eating of the candy. (roar)

Tapping maple trees is an American tradition from the time Europeans invaded this continent. It was a long established custom with First Nations to supplement winter diets with the sweet sap that flowed during the "hunger moon".

The sugary sap begins its production with the days of mild temperatures [above freezing] and night of temperature below freezing. The sugary sap is formed from the stored starch of the previous year when the thawing ground water is pulled up into the roots and the sap begins to run through the roots and up under the bark to supply the new leaves that are budding. More specifically, the ground water pushed its way into the tree and up the xylem into the trunk and branches. As an analogy, the tree is "priming its pump". (roar)

Holes about one and a half inches are drilled into the trunks of the trees. Spouts are inserted and buckets are hung under [from] the spouts. A cover or "hat" is placed over the spout and bucket to protect the bucket from accepting falling debris.

It takes between 10 and 20 gallons of sap to produce a pint of syrup. In our local festivals, the sap is boiled down in large pots over open fires. However, in the background are large [huge even] containers fired by gas burners. Friday, was Barb's birthday. Yesterday was the Maple Sugar Festival in Williams County, Ohio. For her Birthday, our children and grandchildren took us to the festival for a hay ride tour of the tapping which culminates with brunch of pancakes and sausage with lots of maple syrup. And, observing and sampling maple sugar candy and caramel popcorn. Of course, we bought a bottle [jug and/or log cabin] of syrup for each family to enjoy the rest of the spring.

If your taste buds and salivary glands are bothering you a bit, go ahead .... fix a batch of hotcakes and put on some maple syrup. (VBG)

© 2000, by Bill Oliver
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