March at Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary means it’s Maple Sugarin’ Time!
Hawthorn Hollow volunteers and staff have been tapping sugar maples, harvesting and processing sap, and bottling syrup for a couple weeks already. Naturalist and Education Manager Kailyn Palomares reports that over 400 gallons of sap have been harvested from 50 trees.
“The above-average temperatures in February means we were able to tap trees, boil sap, and bottle syrup earlier than we ever have before,” Palomares said. “We’ve already had three bottling sessions, which gave us 59 bottles so far.”
A specific set of conditions is required to harvest sugar maple sap. When the temperature is below freezing, the sap is stored in the roots underground to keep it from freezing. When it rises above freezing, the sap moves up the trunk into the branches. The key to harvesting is to catch it while it’s moving back and forth. The freeze-thaw cycle we experience during springtime is when this happens most often. During this time of year, it’s common to see buckets hanging from tree trunks all around the upper Midwest.
However, collecting the sap is only part of the process. To render syrup, the sap must be boiled down until almost all the water is removed, leaving behind the thick, sticky substance we know as maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce just one gallon of maple syrup. Hawthorn Hollow uses a six-tray evaporator, which spreads the sap out on top of a large wood-burning stove to speed up evaporation. Once the syrup reaches the required consistency, it is immediately bottled. This whole process is completed in Mary’s Sugar Shack, a standalone building constructed in 2012 with funding from the Mary Frost Ashley Foundation.
To share this limited-time experience with the public, Hawthorn Hollow will be holding its popular “It’s Maple Sugarin’ Time” adult & family programs on Saturdays March 11 and 18. This program provides a history of Native American traditions and techniques for capturing and cooking maple syrup, also known as sugaring. The Sugar Maple and history of maple sugaring is an important part of Wisconsin’s heritage. Participants will experience the art and traditions of maple sugaring through hands-on activities, such as tree identification and tapping, sap cooking, and a crafting session.
The Maple Sugarin’ Time program is designed for families and adults. Registration is required. This is a two-hour outdoor program. Please come dressed for the weather. There may be snow or mud on the trails, so boots are recommended. The cost to register is $15 per person. Children 3-and-under are free. For tickets, please visit hawthornhollow.ticketspice.com/maple-sugarin-time-2023.