Guest blog by TTF Intern, Halana Dash
Got Syrup? On Sunday, March 19th, Tacony Creek Park certainly did — our Third Annual Maple Sugaring Festival brought friends, families, and neighbors from across our watershed together for a special afternoon of storytelling, cooking, and, of course, tasting.
The afternoon began with an introduction to TTF and the many opportunities to enjoy Tacony Creek Park and trail. Next, groups of 7-15 rotated through five different stations to learn about the process of turning tree sap into maple syrup.
First, groups headed to the Storytelling Station, where they listened to Native American myths and legends of how maple syrup was first discovered. They also learned that although maple trees grow around the world, only the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada can produce maple syrup, because they have the right kind of weather.
Next, groups headed to the Drilling Station. Participants looked at “tree cookies” – cross sections of trees that show the rings – to learn the names of trees’ inner layers and how each layer works. Did you know that to determine a tree’s age, you should count the spaces between the rings, and not the rings themselves? It takes two years for a tree to grow a ring, so the spaces are a better measurement. Before leaving the Drilling Station, groups also had the chance to practice drilling and “tapping” on a fallen log.
The third station was the “Tapping” Station, where groups saw a close-up view of clear, liquid sap flowing out of a “tapped” tree and into a collection bucket via a tube. Believe it or not, sap is not the thick, golden color we associate with syrup when it comes out of the tree – it actually looks more like water!
Sap looks like water because it is mostly water – 98% to be exact. The other two percent of the liquid is sugar. In order to turn sap into syrup, it must become about 66% sugar and 34% water. The fourth station, the Cooking Station, demonstrated how to boil the sap in a building called a sugar shack until enough water has been evaporated to reach this ratio and turn the sap into the thick, golden, sweet maple syrup that we eat.
Participants enjoyed warm waffles with maple syrup to end the day at the Tasting Station. It was definitely the sweetest part of the lesson!
A big thank you to Whole Foods Market for providing waffles and maple syrup for all to enjoy, and to our volunteers who made the event a success.