My mom reads the paper from cover to cover every day, regularly scanning for health-related breakthroughs and kid-friendly activities. When she finds an article or calendar listing that seems interesting, she’ll tear it out of the newspaper and leave it on the kitchen table for us to browse.
That’s how we ended up at the Maple Sugar Festival in Chatham last Saturday. Originally, my mom stumbled upon a listing in February for maple sugaring demonstrations at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, but a bit of online research revealed an entire afternoon’s worth of activities in March. Since Chatham is almost 45 minutes away, we decided to wait for the festival.
Attending an event all about collecting sap from trees and turning it into maple syrup falls under the category of “Things I’d Never Do If I Didn’t Have Kids.” However, since one of the Dr. Seuss stories we’ve been reading (over and over again) is about making maple syrup, we thought Levi would get a kick out of seeing the process in person.
And — hooray! — he did.
In fact, as we exited the festival, Levi turned to me and said, “Mommy, I had so much fun today!” Apparently (and thankfully), he had quickly forgotten his reluctance to make a maple leaf craft, his bashfulness during the tree tapping demo, and his near-breakdown when it was time to toss his mostly-eaten maple snow cone.
His favorite part, I think, besides sharing a maple sugar donut, was walking though the muddy trail (it rained the whole time we were there) and peeking inside the sap-collecting buckets hanging from maple trees. They were all empty, but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm.
Plus, he was thrilled to have a reason to wear his red firefighter rain boots.
The Maple Sugar Festival was more interesting than I had anticipated, and I actually learned a few things about maple syrup. Curious?
Here are a few fun facts about maple sugaring:
- First of all, did you have any idea that New Jersey produces maple syrup? I didn’t — and I grew up here!
- Maple sugaring season takes place between February and March but only lasts about 4-6 weeks.
- For sap to flow, temperatures need to be below freezing at night and in the 40-50s during the day.
- Maple sap that comes out of the tree is clear and not very sweet. It’s actually mostly water and needs to be boiled at 219 degrees for the water to evaporate.
- It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
- The difference between Fancy, Grade A and Grade B maple syrup is not the quality but the color (and therefore the taste). Fancy, the lightest in color, has the most mild flavor, while Grade B, the darkest, has the strongest flavor.
PS: Another favorite kid-friendly activity that we do every year.