The Native Americans learned this long ago, well before their land was invaded by explorers and settlers. Native Americans discovered the sweetness of the maple sap and were the first to figure out how to make maple syrup.
It’s appropriate that one of this winter’s first sugar boiling events will be held in the recreated Shawnee village at George Rogers Clark Park this coming Saturday, Feb. 17.
“We’ve been harvesting sap from maple trees in the park,” said Justin Houston, who’s in charge of the Kispoko Village in George Rogers Clark Park.
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On Saturday the clear maple sap will be boiled into syrup at the Native American village site.
According to Houston, the early Native Americans would put hot stones into the sap in containers made of clay, bark or wood. After trade began with the Europeans, they used the more efficient metal pots over a wood fire.
This year the maple sap boiling at the park will be done in modern clothing using a metal kettle, but the heat source will be the same that Shawnee and pioneers used up to modern times — cooking over a wood fire.
There is no formal program planned but the public is invited to visit Kispoko just to see how it is done. As the day and the evaporation in the kettle goes on, there may be some syrup to sample later.
This is also the perfect opportunity to explore the park and see all that is behind the Hertzler House, the Fair at New Boston field and the Native Village. A lake, hiking trails, meandering streams and a view of a waterfall make this quiet park a local treasure.
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Most of the large maple syrup processing operations in Ohio are in the northeastern counties. OhioMaple.org has a Maple Madness Driving Trail all over the state during the month of March. The website is full of great information about some of the larger producers.
Locally we have some folks tapping maple trees for family gatherings.
Kyle Koehler, state representative for Ohio’s 79th District, and his family will start their annual maple sap collection and boiling this weekend. Last year they tapped 70 trees in this fun family effort that reminds us that maple sap collecting and boiling was a festive time for our pioneer ancestors and the Native Americans in this area.
Keep your eyes open as you drive around over these next few weeks and you might see sap collecting buckets of a variety of colors attached to maple trees in a woods or even a yard.
And remember, even if no bucket is attached, the sap is moving within those tree trunks and the trees are waking up.
Can spring be far behind?