Nature is generous. When a sugar maple flushes its winter-frozen plumbing with sweet sap, we get a gift, too.
The sap, botanists point out, is merely the means to the tree’s ends: removing cold-formed bubbles that impede the movement of life-giving water from root to twig. As winter shifts to spring, the sap is pumped up the tree by a cycle of night-time freezes and day-time thaws. The pipes are cleared, the tree benefits. But not just the tree. Insects benefit from the oozing sap. Birds benefit. And we benefit. Native Americans discovered that tapping sugar maples and boiling down the sap produces a sugary syrup that is well worth the effort.
Each year, on four weekends in late February and early March, Lincoln Memorial Garden celebrates this gift from nature by inviting the public to take part in the tradition of collecting and boiling sweet sap from sugar maple trees.
The Garden’s expert staff and volunteers will serve as guides. You can watch and participate at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday on two weekends in February -- the 16-17 and the 23-24 – and two weekends in March -- the 2-3 and the 9-10. The event is free. Be sure to dress in warm clothing and wear footwear suitable for the possibility of muddy or slippery ground.
We’ll meet for a five- to 10-minute orientation inside the Garden’s Nature Center before heading into the woods to identify the perfect trees for tapping. After drilling a small hole into a tree trunk and inserting a spile, or spout, we’ll see the watery sap begin to flow -- if the night has been cold and the day is warm. Next, we’ll take sap to the evaporation station where it will be boiled until only the sweet syrup remains. You can look forward to tasting the sap when it comes out of the tree and again after it has been transformed into syrup.
Then we might all want to thank Nature for this generosity.