January 15, 2015
Why I tap maple trees
In about a month from the time you receive this Dirt – around mid-February – we will begin tapping our maple trees. Since the first of the year we have received catalogs from some of the sugaring supply companies. A definite reminder that we need to order buckets and spouts.
Since I came to Rockland County in 1970 I have always been involved with maple sugaring in some way or another. If I didn’t tap trees, collect the sap and boil it down into syrup during this time (approximately mid-February until the end of March), I would definitely feel something was missing.
Just this morning I made French toast (from good Challah) and we used our home-made maple syrup! Last year was a very good maple season and we made enough to last until this upcoming season. Not that it would be just the syrup I miss, but maybe more importantly, the tradition, the ritual, and the feeling that I am connected to nature’s yearly rhythm. Perhaps sugaring helps me set or become aware of my own biological clock, and that I am part of something bigger.
If one looks at a maple tree now it can be hard to imagine all the activity that will soon be happening around it and in it. The sap we collect this year from a tree was made last growing season. Some of the water part of the sap might be from a late afternoon thunderstorm last July 27th. The sugar in the sap, which accounts for its sweetness, was made by all the green leaves photosynthesizing – making sugar from sunlight, air and water – all season long. The more leaves on a maple, the sweeter the sap, theoritically.
I look at a maple tree at this time of year and imagine if it could talk, would it tell me about its life during each season, how each leaf was busy each day, how it feels when the buds finally open, how many times has it been tapped, and just how and where inside itself is the sap stored all winter? And as the day-times become warmer, and sugaring time comes upon us, how is that sap moving up/down/sideways within the tree’s trunks, roots and branches?
The best news: you, too, can begin to make sugaring time a tradition at home. Come to one of our sugaring programs and we’ll start you on your way. It is a delicious journey!