The start of spring means that sap is beginning to flow in trees, and this year, staff at YMCA Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre are making maple syrup! While the organic farm at Cedar Glen is still quiet, farm staff are busy working in the sugarbush. The forest on our property, which encompasses 263 acres of the Oak Ridges Moraine, has many pockets of maple trees — especially along Sugar Shack Trail. Last summer, volunteers from Bank of Montreal helped refurbish an old sugar shack that is now home to day camp arts and crafts activities in the summer and our maple syrup program in the winter and spring.
Outdoor Education visitors and March Break campers who visit Cedar Glen while the sugar shack is in operation get a first-hand look at every step of the process. First, once the weather changes so that the days get warmer but the nights are still below freezing, a hole is drilled into the trunk of sugar maple trees to insert a straw-like piece of metal called spile. Sap flows from the trees through the spile, and is collected in a bucket hanging from the tree. Next, the sap is boiled down to increase the concentration of sugar. The transformation of sap into syrup takes many hours and even days — it takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup!
Over the last month, students and campers have helped collect sap from each tree, and learnt how to make maple syrup. Students and campers have a chance to taste the sap they collect, which only contains 2% sugar, and compare with the finished result, which contains 66-67% sugar!
As Cedar Glen’s organic farm continues to grow, we look forward to our first honey harvest from the apiary this summer and hope to continue to make maple syrup in years to come.