If you’re seeing this intro, I’m still waiting for the right temps to harvest maple sap. One of my first wild plant nibbling itches was given to me by the maple syrup taffy part of one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Decades later, over the next week, I’ll finally be scratching it.
In Ojibwe, zhiiwaagamizigan means maple sap. And it’s up the hierarchy with wild rice and corn as traditional main staples this neck of Turtle Island. (Haliburton area was more of a coniferous hunting ground not long ago, but Rice Lake isn’t far away.)
In the vicinity of mid-march, for about a month-long, we can tap our trees in Ontario. From the first spring melt where the water is flowing until spring buds swell. When the nights are freezing and days are warming.
The first run is considered the best by some. Another best is possibly when early winter has less snow cover allowing the ground to freeze deeply, with deep snow cover following later.
Large trees can hold 2-3 taps. My tree is barely large enough to tap, so we’ll do 1. I did the least bush thing possible and ran to Home Hardware. No carving a tap out of wood, no making a birchbark vessel for the sap. Maybe another time!
I will be drilling a slightly angled uphill hole into the trunk about 11mm or 7/16ths of an inch and going about 2 1/2 inches deep, being careful not to split the wood. I’ll clean it out with a stick so that the sawdust doesn’t clog my tap. It should already be running. Then I’ll drive a cast iron tap into it.
I’m going to use a rocket stove outside to boil. Continuing to add sap until it’s about 4C/7F above boiling and has reduced to a sweet maple syrup brown. If boiled inside on a stove the walls around it will get sticky.
Then we’ll make some recipes with it! I’ll post this on social media once it’s refurbished with video and pictures.
Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants