For centuries those living near eastern deciduous forests have made maple syrup and sugar by boiling down the sap from sugar maple trees. This wonderful pure food sustained indigenous Anishinaabe tribes at winter’s end when their supplies of dried vegetables, meat, and fish were depleted. In turn, they passed on their sugar-making tradition to the first French explorers who ventured into the Great Lakes region in the late 1600s. Over time, maple sugar was harvested annually in many Michigan pioneer communities. Settlers knew that when daytime temperatures rose above freezing but dropped below 32°F at night, it was time to set up their sugar camps. Our own Village archives include images of Troy Township farmers who boiled down hundreds of gallons of syrup each year.
Tree-tapping continues today at the Stage Nature Center’s* annual Maple Syrup Festival; and once again the Village staff and volunteers will partner with our Troy Nature Society colleagues during this special March event. At the Festival visitors will learn how all trees produce sugar, how to tap trees, and process maple sap. They’ll hike through the woods, sample sap right from the tree, and visit the sugar shed where the fire is stoked and the sap is bubbling. Free samples of syrup and maple cream are available and guests can also purchase Michigan maple products.
This year our historic interpreters will provide an all new indoor presentation prompted by the questions of an Indian gentleman last year. As we walked through the woods examining the buckets brimming with sap he explained that he was curious because “in India, we tap for rubber.”
His simple statement prompted me to ask, “What other trees do people tap and what do different cultures make from the sap that they gather?” We found a treasure trove of information that we’ve woven into a great new program that highlights tree-tapping from South America to Europe and Asia.
We hope that your family, friends, scout troop, or club will join the fun at Maple Syrup: Many Saps and Maple Taps. Go to Troy Nature Society to register for a time-slot on March 5, 12, or 19. Each 90- minute program includes an indoor presentation, hike through the woods where trees have been tapped, a stop in the sugar shed, complimentary tastings, and a special craft for kids.
I’ll see you there!
*The Stage Nature Center is located at 6685 Coolidge Hwy just south of South Boulevard in Troy.