Online Staff Report
GENOA, Ill. — Maple Syrup Fest will be Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Natural Resource Center in Russell Woods Forest Preserve. The preserve is 1 mile west of Genoa off Route 72.
The University of Illinois Extension, along with the DeKalb County Forest Preserve, holds their annual Maple Syrup Fest the first Saturday of March.
In late winter at the Russell Woods Forest Preserve, the University of Illinois natural resource staff starts tapping the trees in the lowland forest. As environmentally unfriendly as this may seem, it is actually an activity that has been happening for hundreds of years.
The woodland Native Americans were thought to inadvertently come across the sap water in our deciduous trees. The pioneers perfected the process by cooking the sweet water into usable sugar, candy and, of course, maple syrup.
“The trees are providing us with this wonderful renewable resource, but you need to tap the trees within a small window of time to get it,” said Peggy Doty, U of I Extension educator.
Today, trees are tapped near the end of winter to retrieve the sap water. Doty said, “The sap water runs best when the temperatures climb above 40 degrees in the day and drop below freezing at night.” It is then cooked in a large flat pan to evaporate the water, leaving the concentration of sugars behind.
If a person wants a gallon of maple syrup, they will have to harvest 40 to 100 gallons of sap water, depending on the type of maple tree.
“If people would like to try this at home, this event is the best way to see how it happens,” said Doty.
The staff will be giving demonstrations throughout the day. The sap water will be boiling down most of day over an open fire outside.
“We are here to show the process, but not necessarily get a large quantity of product,” Doty said. “We usually get enough for people to experience a taste-testing.”
In the morning, there will be sample-size pancakes for comparing real syrup to the corn syrup counterpart. The staff will have ongoing crafts for children to make and take. The Genoa Prairie Gems 4-H Club will offer lunch and baked goods for sale as well.
The event is free, with donations accepted to cover costs. Call the Natural Resource Center at (815) 784-2000 if you have questions.
Posted Feb. 27, 2013