On Saturday, March 18, the Deer Creek Daisies Garden Club traveled to Caesar Creek Pioneer Village in Waynesville, Ohio. They attended the 2017 Maple Syrup and Pancake Brunch. It was a unanimous decision to attend and all in favor replied with a “yum” vote!
An article titled, “A sweet trip to the past, and tapping into a sweet and sticky hobby,” caught the attention of one of the garden club members. Any plant or seed grown in soil is always of interest to the gardeners. The group has been learning about flowers for a number of years, why not learn some facts about trees?
Much of the information shared in this article was written and reported by Sarah Allen, a writer for the Salt Magazine. This magazine comes out periodically in county newspapers such as the Record-Herald and Madison Press and are free to subscribers. For non-subscribers, copies of this magazine can be purchased at the newspaper offices.
The Maple Syrup and Pancake Brunch is an event that has been a part of the village for a long time. The ambiance of the gathering was in the Bullskin Inn with candlelight and a roaring fire, which gave great warmth on that very cold March morning.The gardeners soon appreciated the making of maple syrup by its sweet taste and it was enjoyed by all those in attendance.
Following the brunch, a guided tour and talk was given. Ohio, along with Vermont, is among the country’s top producers of maple syrup. Ohio has a good sugar maple crop at Caesar Creek where 100 trees are tapped.
The tour began with a video in the village schoolhouse where the garden club was greeted by Randy, a village volunteer. Guests sat on primitive benches watching a projector screen with a toasty fire behind them that helped keep the room warm. The video explained the history of making maple syrup, its many uses, how trees are tapped and sap collected.
As the water inside the tree melts, the sap drains through the tap and into collection buckets. The sap is then taken to “sugar houses” where it is boiled and filtered to make the final product.
The video also talked about health benefits of consuming maple syrup. It contains calcium and other beneficial minerals. All agreed, a good reason to bring on the pancakes and waffles!
The syrup at Caesar Creek is made over a wood fire. It is filtered by passing through a cheese cloth three times which will take out 99 percent of the debris. It smells very good in the sugar house when the maple syrup is cooking.
After the trees have been tapped for gathering sap, the trees will heal themselves. However, next year’s harvesters should tap the tree three inches away from the previous year’s hole. Most trees will provide sap for five generations of a family. Many of the trees last 200-300 years.
The sugar maple is one of America’s best loved trees. It is one of the largest and finest forest trees, many times reaching heights of 100 feet with spreading branches and leaves 50 feet in width.
It’s no wonder New York and Vermont have both adopted it as their state trees and Canada has adorned its national flag with the Sugar Maple’s incredible leaf.
If there are trees in heaven, they are probably Sugar Maples. Their autumn foliage stands out above all other trees. The green leaves morph to rich golds, bright yellows, burnt oranges, and the show of color ends with a deep red. Some of these brilliant-colored maples include October Glory, Autumn Blaze and American Red.
Ohio certified naturalist, Erin Shaw of Caesar Creek State Park, pointed out the maple trees in the surrounding wooded area and on the village property. She provided the group with many interesting facts.
Like any crop that is for harvest, it all comes down to weather. Syrup is gathered when winter is almost over. Once the season begins there is a very short time period for sap collection. (Four to eight weeks)
Most maple syrup farmers are farmers. They understand the concepts of growth, production, weather-related elements and the crucial timeframe of harvest. For many, the sap collection is a family/friend matter as they have learned the techniques from other experienced persons.
Taking some of the tree’s sap will do no harm, but if too much is taken, and not properly done, the tree will suffer.
Village guests visited a sugar house where they met Terry, another village volunteer. He stated it takes 40-80 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. He explained how they boil down the sap and make it into pure maple syrup. He also stated that due to weather, this year’s harvest started in late December and finished late February. Like any type of farming or production, you have to love what you are doing. One maple syrup enthusiast stated that the process from start to finish is a “labor of love.”
While commercially planted for its delicious syrup and value as lumber, the Sugar Maple makes a great addition to any yard or park. It truly increases the value of a property or landscape.
Other village historical sites visited by the gardeners were Hawkins Cabin, where homemade waffles are made over a hearth. A blacksmith shop, general store, family cabins and a meeting house.
The gardeners concluded their day at the village meeting house with church pews, an old pump organ, piano and a pot belly stove.
Connie Lindsey presented a game named “Identify a Tree by a Leaf Silhouette.” The group was asked to identify the following leaves which all have a distinct shape. Those leaves were Sugar Maple, Mimosa, Ginkgo, Ash, Catalpa, Aspen, Oak, Sassafras, Honey Locust, Poplar (Tulip Tree), Hickory, Elm, Redbud, Sweet Gum, Birch, Sycamore, Horse Chestnut (Buckeye), and Cottonwood.
The winner of the garden game was Julie Schwartz – having correctly identified the most leaves. Barbara Vance awarded her with a small (five-foot) Sugar Maple Tree, complete with planting instructions. She also received a decorative glass sugar maple container filled with maple syrup.
Other garden club members whose names were drawn for a maple-related garden gift were Jeanne Miller, Joyce Schlichter and Kendra Knecht.
It’s a FACT: The success of Mother Nature’s annual art show depends on the weather. The best autumn colors of leaves tend to be seen when there is a warm, rainy spring, a summer that’s not intensely hot and a fall with sunny days and crisp, cool nights. (Birds and Blooms)