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It’s Syrup Season!

Below is a message from Jaide Ryks, Naturalist for Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo. To learn more about Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo, please visit their website here.

Maple “syruping” has been a North American tradition for hundreds of years. Native Americans started the tradition by tapping trees with wooden spiles and collecting sap with buckets made of birch bark. With the new advances we have today, you can purchase all the equipment you would ever need at your neighborhood hardware or feed store.

The process is simple; you can even do it at home! Sap can be collected from a variety of trees within the “Acer” genus (maple and box elder). Sugar maples are the most common and efficient tree to use when collecting sap. For reference, 35 gallons of sap collected from a sugar maple will produce one gallon of syrup. However, it takes a whopping 70 gallons of sap from a box elder tree to create the same amount of syrup. Sap begins to flow in late February to early March when daytime temperatures reach around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm temperatures cause the sap to flow from the tree roots to the buds, supplying energy to create spring leaves.

Spiles are inserted 2 inches into the tree’s cambium layer, catching the sap as it flows against gravity Once an ample amount of sap is collected, the water needs to be boiled off to create the syrup. This process can be done over a fire, woodstove, or in a DIY or commercial-grade evaporator. Finally, the syrup is done when it hits about 219 degrees Fahrenheit, or you can use a hydrometer to be more efficient. Bottle your syrup, and voilà! Time for pancakes!

Oxbow Park staff and volunteers look forward to maple syrup season every year; it is a fun and hands-on activity everyone wants to be part of. Twenty-five maple trees are tapped every season at Oxbow Park, producing around 500 gallons of sap (and thus, about 12 gallons of syrup!) Park volunteers gather the sap and help boil it off in the evaporator. Thanks to very talented Olmsted County staff members, Oxbow Park uses a custom-made evaporator.

Naturalists and staff members also put on multiple public programming opportunities to teach the public about the maple syrup-making process. Programs are a hit and bring in many curious guests! The best part? Sampling fresh Oxbow Park syrup with vanilla ice cream!

Thank you to all the Minnesota parks and nature centers that participate in maple syruping programs. It is a fun, educational, and “sweet” experience for all!