CommunityDEXTER: Annual Maple syrup tree tapping marks first sign of spring

DEXTER: Annual Maple syrup tree tapping marks first sign of spring

Dexter Leader

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Leslie McGraw
For Heritage Media
Twitter: @LesGo4It

Hudson Mills Metro Park was one of several local parks that began giving tours of local tree tapping this past weekend.

March is National Sugar Month. The season for tapping maple syrup is pretty short, about 4 to 5 weeks, in Michigan. That is because of the unique temperature conditions that have to occur in order for sap to produce. Daytime temperatures above freezing, nighttime temperatures below freezing.

 “You need the temperature cycles to get the sugar. Friday was the first day that our trees were ready,” said Mark Irish, who led the Maple tour at Hudson Mills.

Formerly known as naturalists, interpreters combine observations and explanations of nature along with historical information.

 “We interpret what going on inside of the tree, the history of the maple tree,” said Irish. Tour participants also received a maple syrup recipe booklet and a shopping list for supplies (which can be purchased at Dexter Mill), should they decide to start tapping their own maple trees.

Kids, who outnumbered the adults on a couple of the tours, were given a brief history of the maple syrup process, followed by an interactive tour of the complete process and a bit of the end product.

 “Every time you have syrup, you should expect kids,” said Silke Stiles of Northville. She and her husband brought their children (ages 2, 5 and 6) to see the process first-hand and have a pancake breakfast.

 “My husband has a friend in Ohio who owns a couple acres [of land] and every year the kids help him collect sap and make syrup; they have a lot of fun.”

The first recorded tapping of trees was by Native Americans who watched the behaviors of animals and where they were going to for food sources. Native Americans slashed the tree and used a hollowed out stick for tapping and a small basket to collect the drippings. To preserve the syrup, the Native Americans made blocks of maple sugar, which they could shave off for flavoring food. Any tree can be tapped for something useful, some for edible contents.  The Red Maple and Sugar Maple trees are good for tapping into what will become maple syrup.

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