Last Saturday, Cheltenham Township and Friends of High School Park were joined by TTF to host a demonstration on the process of extracting maple sugar from maple trees. TTF helped promote and sponsor this event because programs like this engage our communities in watershed improvement, which is what we’re all about!
We all love trees because they bring benefits to the community including shade, flood reduction, increased property values, peace of mind and if it’s a maple tree, syrup! Read more about why we love trees here.
Environmental Educator Judith Gratz, led the four-stationed maple sugaring demonstration:
The first station was an introduction to maple trees:
- Where the trees grow and are most abundant
- Which maple tree sap is the sweetest
- How the trees produce sugar in the winter
- The physical attributes of the leaf; and a close look at a circular cut of a maple tree trunk
It was fun to see the children volunteer to be carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules and display the chemical exchange between us and the trees.
The second station explained the method of drilling into the tree, and tapping the hole with a spile to extract the tree sap. Again, the children were excited to drill “taps” into pieces of wood. We also learned how the Lenape Indians were the first to tap into maple trees and reduced the sap into sugar by inserting hot rocks into the clear liquid until the water evaporated.
The third station consisted of a tap within a maple tree, extracting the clear sap through a plastic tube and into an empty gallon. Here, we learned that the process of extracting maple sugar only lasts a few weeks near the end of the winter season, when temperatures begin to fluctuate between cold and warm. After that, chemical changes within the tree and soil alter the flavor of the tree sap, making it bitter and tasting like “really burnt bacon” according to Judith.
The collected sap was then taken to the fourth station, where the liquid was boiled in an electric burner to demonstrate the reduction process. This was the final stop, which ended with tastings of yummy warm waffles topped with maple syrup.
It was a rewarding experience for all who attended on a beautiful, sunny day. This was an event that will surely be remembered by the children who participated, and one I will look forward to again next year! View the entire photo album here.
And thanks to Guest Blogger Doryan DeAngel, one of our star volunteers!