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March is maple syrup time

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 9:20 a.m. CDT
Caption
(MidWeek file photo)
Alex Handel (left) and J.T. Anesi cook off water from maple sap to create maple syrup at Maple Syrup Fest.

GENOA – Maple Syrup Fest will be from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at the Natural Resource Center in Russell Woods Forest Preserve, one mile west of Genoa off Route 72.

In the morning, there will be sample-size pancakes so tasters can compare real syrup to its corn syrup counterpart. Genoa Prairie Gems 4-H club will offer lunch and baked goods for sale as well.

Each year at this time, University of Illinois Extension staff and volunteers start tapping the trees at Russell Woods Forest Preserve.

“The trees are providing us with this wonderful renewable resource, but you have to tap within a small window of time to get it,” said Peggy Doty, energy and environmental stewardship educator.

Sap water runs best when temperatures climb above 40 degrees during the day and drop below freezing at night, Doty said. Once collected, the water is cooked outdoors in a large, flat pan to evaporate the water, leaving behind the concentrated sugars.

“If a person wants one gallon of maple syrup, they will have to harvest 40 to 100 gallons of sap water, depending on the type of maple tree,” Doty said. “People who are interested in trying this at home should come to this event and see how it works.”

Two new activities this year are the Native Skills Cabin and Winter Tree Identification. In the Native Skills instruction, people can learn how different natural tools were used by Native Americans in their day-to-day life.

At 11 a.m. Al Roloff will teach winter tree identification in Cabin 3, then volunteers can learn invasive species removal techniques to improve the forest’s health.

Oaken Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation Center will present an educational program with live animals at 2 p.m.

Talks about the sugaring process will be given throughout the day, and the sap water will be boiling down outside most of day.

“We are here to show the process, not necessarily get a large quantity of product, however, we usually get enough for everyone to do some taste testing,” Doty said.

Maple Syrup Fest

10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. March 1

Russell Woods Forest Preserve, Genoa

Native Skills Cabin open 10-11 and 1-4:30

Tree identification seminar at 11 a.m.

Live animal program at 2 p.m.

Other than the 4-H food stand, all activities at the festival are free. Call 815-784-2000 for more information.

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