A sudden snow squall did not deter families from enjoying Maple Sugar Day this Saturday at the Wissahickon Environmental Center (WEC) in Chestnut Hill. The event was held as a celebration of winter’s end.
WEC’s Education Planner, Patricia Fries and Educator, Kim Wood led tours of the park’s “sugar bush” – a cluster of maple trees where families took part in hands-on demonstrations on how to collect maple sap. The collected sap is boiled down to make maple syrup.
Making maple syrup 101
To harvest the sap, maple trees need winter. Fries explained to attendees that the sap flows best on days that have temperatures above 40F and nights with temperatures below freezing. Sugar maples are considered the best sap producers. February is a typical harvest month and the WEC taps 13 trees each year. However, this year’s warmer temperatures have presented a challenge. In a good year a single tap hole will produce 10 gallons of sap for the season.
It takes 40 gallons of the watery sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Educators Rich Berman and Steve Okula remarked that the process is quite time consuming and can take all day, depending on the source of heat.
Once the syrup has been made, it can be boiled at an even higher temperature and then slowly cooled to make maple candy. Children lined up to patiently wait for samples. Sela Kostinski thought the candy tasted just like maple syrup. “It’s good!” Devon Carpenter exclaimed.