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Published on: Dec. 28, 2010

that still keep the need for this natural resource important today.

To ensure that this skill stays profitable, maple farmers have become even more efficient in the way they collect and process sap. Coincidentally, these methods also use the best management practices of our natural resources, maintaining the health of these trees for future generations.

Sustainable Sugaring

Conservation means wise use and maple farmers have done just that. Now, instead of using larger metal taps that require drilling large holes into trees, new smaller-diameter “health spouts” have been created. These new spouts have proven to be less invasive and allow the tree to heal more quickly once removed. With these advances, the proper use of the resource has proven vital in maintaining the trees’ health and viability.

To harvest sap from a sugar maple tree in a sustainable way, the tree needs to be at least 10 inches in diameter. Tapping a tree smaller than this can cause harm to the tree, taking away vital nutrients it needs for growth. Much like a person cannot donate blood until they are old enough, a small tree is vulnerable to “donating” sap before it is large enough. Doing so heightens the odds of the tree becoming sick and possibly dying. Here at Rockwoods Reservation, we have been able to tap and harvest sap from the same sugar maple trees for the past 10 years. This is due to proper conservation techniques.

You don’t have to have a grove of sugar maple trees in your backyard to become a producer of maple syrup, sugar or candies. All it takes is one tree at least 10 inches in diameter. A typical tree this size can produce anywhere from 5-15 gallons of sap in a given season. While it does take 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, just one tree can produce as much as a quarter gallon to a half-gallon of syrup. With a little bit of work, families can bundle up and head outdoors in the middle of winter and produce the perfect amount of syrup for a pancake breakfast.

Another family favorite is making and eating “sugar-on-snow.” This delicious treat is made by heating maple syrup beyond the syrup stage. When ready, the hot liquid is poured onto snow where it instantly turns into chewy taffy. This thrills children as they see candy formed instantly, as if by magic!

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in her books about her family making sugar-on-snow during the season and how delicious it was. According to Robert Frost, sugar-on-snow parties were a time to celebrate spring’s arrival. Today, most maple producers keep this tradition, as well as the art of making maple syrup, alive by holding maple sugar festivals. They share their secrets of the sugar-making process and provide sugar on snow to their visitors as a way to remember this fun pastime.

Join the Party

While our forests are not thick with sugar maple trees, and maple syrup production is nowhere close to what is produced in the Northeast, Missourians have a long tradition of making maple sugar, and it still helps connect families to the natural world. Here at Rockwoods Reservation, we are continuing this tradition.

Join us Feb. 5 from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. for our Maple Sugar Festival, where we’ll show you what it takes to become your own backyard sugarer. This event is free and open to the public. We’ll show you how to tap a tree, what equipment to use and how to turn sap into syrup and other maple products. Your family can try making sugar-on-snow and enjoy a taste of real maple syrup. We’ll also have demonstrations of the historic three-kettle system, along with guided hikes to our sugar bush. There will be naturalists available to answer any questions you might have.

There are also special programs for school groups of 25 students or more Tuesday through Friday, Jan. 25 through Feb. 25. Reservations are required for these programs.

So bundle up your family and take part in this historic Missouri pastime. Who knows, your family might start its own tradition for future generations to enjoy.

Event and Contact Information
Rockwoods Reservation
2751 Glencoe Road, Wildwood, MO 63038
Phone: 636-458-2236

School Programs
Tuesday through Friday, Jan. 25 through Feb. 25
Reservations required

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