By Betsy Natter
With a seemingly endless streak of gray days and even a sprinkling of snow it may not seem that spring is around the corner. But the maple trees in the woods know it’s near and their sap is running. Sap, consisting of water, minerals and sugar, not only provides nutrition for the trees, but also provides a sweet treat for the people who tap and process it annually. Several area environmental sites are holding maple sugaring events where participants can learn all about maple trees, the tapping process and how maple syrup and other products are produced. The sugaring season passes quickly, so be sure to attend one of these programs.
Wissahickon Environmental Center – Maple Sugar Day
300 W. Northwestern Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19118
Head to Forbidden Drive where Environmental Center staff will be hosting their annual maple sugaring demonstrations on Sat. Feb. 25 from 11 am to 3 pm. Learn about the process and enjoy pancakes with a variety of maple toppings and maple candy to taste. A variety of Pennsylvania produced maple syrup products will be available for purchase. The event is free for all ages.
Norristown Farm Park – Sugar Maple Trees
2500 Upper Farm Rd., Norristown, PA 19403
Learn about the history and distinctives of tapping sugar maple trees during this free program on Sun., Feb. 26 at 2 pm at the pavilion. Hear a legend about the Native Americans’ discovery of tree sap and how they tapped trees for hundreds of years. Taste real maple syrup and compare it to commercially processed varieties. The program is for adults and children ages 6 and up. Call the park to pre-register. Maple candy will be available for purchase.
Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association – Maple Sugaring Festival
12 Morris Rd., Ambler, PA 19002
Science comes alive as participants in this festival learn firsthand about the maple sugar process on Sun., Feb. 26, from 12 pm to 3 pm. WVWA guides will take participants on a short hike into the tree stands to see how the maples are tapped and then show how the sap is boiled down into syrup. Tours last about 45 minutes and end at the headquarters where you can enjoy hot chocolate and warm maple treats! The last tour will head out at 3 pm. Pre-registration and pre-payment for the program is available online, but walk-ins are welcome. Check-in and tours begin at the Green Ribbon Trail entrance on Butler Ave. in Ambler. Park at the Ambler Post Office and walk down Butler Avenue over the Wissahickon bridge to the reception table.
Green Lane Park – Maple Sugar Magic
Hill Road Day Use Area off Rt. 29, Green Lane, PA 18054
Bring the whole family for maple sugaring at Green Lane Park on Sat., March 4th during two shows at 11:00 am & 2:00 pm (Rain/snow date: Sun., March 5th). Park staff will demonstrate tree-tapping and how to boil-down the sap using their evaporator as well as share stories of “sugaring off” in the old days. See if you can taste the difference between real maple syrup and commercially produced brands in a blind taste test. The program is free. Pure Pennsylvania maple candy, cream, and syrup will also be available for purchase.
John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove – Sapsucker Festival
1201 Pawlings Rd., Audubon, PA 19403
(610) 666-5593 ext.109
Aptly named for nature’s very own maple sap extractor, the Sapsucker Festival is the Audubon Center’s annual celebration of this late winter activity. The festival will be held from 9 am to 2 pm on Sat., March 4th with a line-up of activities including maple syrup tastings and sales, tree tapping demonstrations and live owl presentations. Visit several sugar making stations to explore the evolution of maple sugar techniques from the Native American, Colonial and Modern time periods. A kid’s corner will feature free crafts focused on bird conservation. Come hungry and enjoy a Bob Evans’ pancake breakfast too! Cost for the breakfast is $5 per person, but kids under age 5 eat free, with proceeds benefiting the Center’s education programs. All event activities, including guided bird walks are free.