Tuesday, February 23, 2010
You might not think that February is the season for any sort of local food.
Sure, no plants are growing right now, especially with the remains of the recent Mid-Atlantic blizzard still covering the ground. But there actually is a local source of food that is perfect at this time of year. Maple Syrup!
Maple sugaring is at its prime when the days are warm but the nights drop below freezing temperatures. Although Maryland isn't a prime maple syrup region, it is still possible in our state!
After reading about a very exciting urban foraging experience tapping a maple tree in Brooklyn, I found out that the Oregon Ridge Nature Center was hosting maple syrup harvesting activities right at this time of year.
Events are still going on next weekend on the 27th & 28th. There is also a pancake breakfast event (with maple syrup!) March 6th & 7th. For more details: http://www.oregonridge.org/
I've posted a series of photos on the Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whistlesfarandwee/sets/72157623491360536/
I had no idea that the tree sap was so clear and watery. It's actually only about 1% sugar when it comes right out of the tree. We got to taste a little cup and the sap tasted mostly like slightly sweet, very pure water.
The sap is then boiled and boiled down until it turns brown and syrupy. It will be about 66% at that point. The photo below is a sample of syrup made from box elder.
Check out the Flickr photo series to see the amazing demonstrations that Oregon Ridge set up of various methods to concentrate the sap.
The method is very simple actually, but you might not necessarily find a tree that contains a lot of syrup, or the temperature might not be quite right.
We learned how to spot a maple tree in winter when you can't see the typical maple leaves (think of the Canadian flag leaf). Maple trees send out opposite branches: Look at the ends, they will make a V.
Also, remember those helicopter seed pods you've seen? Those are maple seeds!
I bought a few bottles of maple syrup to support Oregon Ridge. It's nice to have a sweetener that ensures that we will protect our local forests!
The syrup is really great on steel cut oats and yogurt from Trickling Springs.
For more photos, check out these from my Flickr friend Chiot's Run: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/4376048098/in/photostream/
Posted by AlizaEss