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Maple Sugaring in … Lowell?

Last weekend my son and I went to a Maple Sugaring community program in our city, a place which is known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. You know, old mill buildings, lots of brick, smokestacks, and even some cool old canals. But maple sugaring…? In Lowell?

Well, we do live in New England and there is snow on the ground. In fact, the day before we went to this thing, we had a snow day at my university. So it looked like a good time to do the whole maple tree tapping thingey and all that. But I was skeptical. I admit it.

Since it had snowed a good seven or eight inches the day and evening before, we brought our snowshoes. I figured the public park where we were headed might have some paths cleared, but on the other hand in might not. (Actually, I just look for any excuse to go snowshoeing — wicked fun!!)

Once we arrived, we joined a big group of mostly adults and a few children for whom the activities were designed but who mostly played in the snow while we grown-ups listened attentively to the history of maple sugaring. Did you know that Native Americans in the north used maple sugar as their only seasoning, and they put it in everything?!

First we learned how to identify the sugar maple tree in winter. Then we learned which part of the tree is best for tapping (south facing with a big root at the bottom — tap the pipeline). Then a woman drilled a whole in the trunk, slightly tilting the hole so the sap would run out by gravity alone to the pan hanging on the hook in the tap. As soon as she took the drill out of the trunk — okay, well, maybe it took one minute — a drop of sap actually dripped out of the hole. “Hurray,” we whooped and hollered!!! Seriously. It was like the most exciting thing ever. 🙂

So, yeh, apparently we can get maple trees here to give us enough sap to actually make syrup. And it take about a gazillion gallons of sap to make syrup, by the way, so please don’t pour more on your pancakes than you need and waste it! Oh, and don’t use that cruddy fake stuff. We did a blind taste test, and really there’s no comparison. Get the real stuff.

One last word, a sad one. They said that due to global climate change the region where sugaring is possible is shrinking. Plenty of places have the freeze/thaw cycle, but to get the right kind of sap to flow, there must be a good two weeks at least of deep freeze before all that up and down temp stuff.

So, enjoy your maple syrup while you can, folks. Save the fake stuff for when there’s no more snow on the earth.

2 Responses

  1. We went to a maple festival about 2 hours from us years ago. You are absolutely right. There is no comparison when it comes to the real stuff. We keep telling each other we need to go back, but haven’t. It’s in March. Hmmm, still time to consider going this year!


  2. That sounds like a good time. I’m always interested in programs like that and look forward to taking my daughter with me.Plus, syrup = yummy!

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