It’s Maple Sugaring Time

Here in northern Maryland, we’re fortunate we can participate in a tradition that dates back to the Native Americans – the practice of “tapping” trees, drawing out the sap, and then evaporating the water until what remains is the delightfully sweet maple syrup.

The trees store “sugar” in their trunks and roots during the winter. When weather conditions are right (below freezing at night, and in the mid-40s during the day), the sap rises. In Maryland, this phenomenon occurs only for a few weeks starting in mid-February.

The right combination of maple trees and weather is found primarily in the northeast United States and Canada. Parts of Maryland and Virginia are at the very southern edge of the maple sugaring region.

At the Oregon Ridge Nature Center, you can participate in the entire process of maple sugaring:

Whittle a spile from a red sumac branch to insert into the tree. The spile acts as a straw:

sumac  spile tapped into tree

Go on a short hike to identify the right trees; tap your hole; and hang a container to collect the sap

sap in the jug

Take a turn at tending the sap, using heat to evaporate the water out of the sap. The sap has a sugar concentration of about 2% on average, so it takes 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. That’s a lot of sap to collect and tend!

50 gallons

Native American style: collecting sap into hollowed out tree trunks and placing hot stones in it to boil off the water:

native american methods

Colonial days: heating the sap in kettles over a bonfire

colonist method

Modern-day evaporator for home use:

small evaporator

Today’s “Sugar Shack” and tasting area:

sugar shack_wider view

We invite you to spend a few hours and do some hands-on maple-sugaring with us!

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One Response to It’s Maple Sugaring Time

  1. carl says:

    Great information! Really enjoyed… I find the native American method interesting.

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