Maple Syrup Season Comes Marching In
February 27, 2013

With the spring thaw comes one of New England's biggest treats: delicious maple syrup. No one really knows who first discovered that sap could be made into syrup, but one legend relates the tale about a Native American chief who hit a sugar maple tree with his tomahawk and the sap began to flow. His wife then supposedly used the liquid to cook with and discovered that it was delicious. A more likely theory is that the Native people observed animals drinking from open cuts in trees. The sweet stuff is duly celebrated with a plethora of family-friendly maple sugaring events in March.

The Mass Audubon Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Sharon, has a maple sugaring festival that runs March 10, 16 and 17 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Each day, guided tours led by re-enactors in period garb, discuss Native American and colonial sugaring techniques.

Visitors at Moose Hill can also visit a modern operational sugar house where sap is made into syrup and get to sample the final product. Kids can enjoy arts and crafts inside the nature center and probably talk you into buying pancakes with syrup, “sap” dogs or maple popcorn that the sanctuary sells. If you sample too much, walk it off on one of the numerous trails on the property.

In Milton, Maple Sugar Days are held March 9 and 10 at Brookwood Farm. The Mass Audubon Blue Hills Trailside Museum and Department of Conservation and Recreation team up here to offer a variety of activities, including making maple syrup in the traditional way over the weekend. This event features a self-guided tour over flat, level terrain. Plan on spending at least an hour and a half.

At the Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont, you can learn about the Secret Life of Maple Syrup on March 12 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. If you’ve ever wondered where real maple syrup comes from, how it’s found, and what makes it magically flow every spring (or more likely, your kids asked you and you weren’t sure!), this is the event for your family. You’ll collect sap, boil it down, and then get to sample it. Dress for the weather; most of the program will be outdoors. Six year-olds must be in first grade.

To find other Mass Audubon properties with maple sugaring events, visit www.massaudubon.org. Most programs require pre-registration, so visit each site’s website in advance or call the property.

Maple Syrup 101
For an education in maple sugar, head to the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vermont which opens for the season on March 9. You will learn that American Indians discovered how to turn maple sap into sugar by slashing the tree and boiling the sap. The process has changed somewhat, but the end result is the same - a liquid gold, uniquely New England. At the museum, you'll find exhibits, live demonstrations and, of course, delicious samples.


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