How does she do it?
Mother Nature has her own clock. Take maple syrup. The “working sugar season” lasts six weeks, but when it actually starts is up to her.
Today, in New Hampshire, sugaring has been delayed from an early February start, with the cold, cold winter. Ideal sugaring needs a 25 degree night and 40 degree day. We just have that today, and the sap is running. Watch the buds on the tree as a clue for when to tap the tree, in preparation for making maple syrup.
I’ve long been confused by the grades and color of maple syrup. Let’s see if I can clear it up for you. All maple syrup is 67 per cent sugar, regardless of grade or color. Grade A is lighter in color and taste, resulting from sap that started at higher sugar content and needed less boiling time. Darker maple syrup, longer boiling times, more flavor. The darkest are Grade B. Grade C is really only used for cooking. All have the same sugar content.
Well, let me try to explain with the process.
Pick a tree that is at least ten inches in diameter.
You tap the tree in a new spot, drilling in 2 1/2 inches. That’s how deep the spigoter spiral goes into the tree. Put it in and hang your hook on it. Put the bucket on the hook, cover the bucket. Leave it alone for six weeks.
One tap generates about ten gallons of sap per season. This 130 year old tree has about 600 gallons of sap, that continually regenerates. No maple trees were harmed in the making of this syrup.
The sap is taken to a sugar shack, where the sugar content is measured. The sap color ranges widely from light yellow to dark brown. It may range from 1 to 4 (or more) per cent sugar. Then it has to be boiled until it reaches 67 per cent sugar content.
This room is welcomingly warm and steamy and smells just like you think maple syrup would. I’m not a huge sweets fan, but that smell was more than fine!
After the sap reaches 67 per cent, you have maple syrup (not to be confused with syrup in the supermarket, which is made of corn syrup and a shot of Grade C maple syrup–like 2 per cent).
Finally it is filtered through cheesecloth to get out any remaining impurities, like bark.
Fun fact: Native Americans first started sugaring in the 1600s. The origin myth is that little Indian girls plucked icicles covered with sap, took a lick, and saw it was good. No one today would disagree.
Certainly not Mother Nature, who relishes playing the trickster and creating a good mystery, as evidenced in our next stop.
Tropically warm and very serene, this place transcends time and logic.
There are the mysteries of their beauty–each species has a fingerprint, immediately recognizable. How and why did this happen? Where’s the Monarch butterfly travel journal that helps three successive generations complete one migration cycle Mexico to New England?
But even better is to quit trying to solve mysteries and just immerse in the beauty and sweetness of the day. Enjoy the slide show.