Nothing tops a pancake or waffle like that thick, amber-hued liquid, produced only here in the Northeast—maple syrup. Fortunately for us, we don't need to travel to New Hampshire or Vermont to get a firsthand look at the process. Maple sugaring is the process of transforming sticky, tasteless tree sap into sweet syrup. We are fortunate enough to have maple trees in our backyards.
Maple sugaring season starts the last weekend of February and runs through early March, when climbing temperatures allow the sap to begin running in the trees. Seeing how the sap is collected, cooked and stored (and tasting the delicious final product) is a great way for kids to learn about the farm-to-table movement that's spreading across American dining tables.
Over the winter, the trees have stored sugar in their roots. When temperatures dip below freezing at night and rise above freezing by day, the trees get the signal that spring is near. In other words, it's time to grow some leaves and flowers. To do so, they must send their sugary sap up from their roots to their branches. Harvesting that sap is the first step in the process that ultimately brings the syrup to your table.
There are two farms right here on our Island offering demonstrations and providing yummy samples. Both programs are outdoors, so be sure to dress for the weather. Sturdy walking shoes are recommended for those wishing to enjoy the beautiful grounds at each site. The programs, however, are within easy access of the parking lot as are the bathrooms and hand-washing stations.
200 New Highway, Commack (631) 543-7804
Maple-Sugaring Sundays: February 24th, March 3rd and March 10th from 1:30–3:00pm
Cost: $3/person or $8/family
Hoyt Farm is offering an in-depth look at the maple-sugaring process, from sap to sugar. Attendees will learn how Native Americans discovered that maple-tree sap could be converted to sugar and stored to sweeten their food all year long; how the colonists, after being taught by the Native Americans, adapted their own way of harvesting the sugar; and finally how the commercial process is done today. The class involves a mix of lecture, activity, and visual aids. Visitors will observe the sap being collected from the trees, then boiled down on an open fire. The finished product will be available for tasting.
The maple-sugaring event provides a unique opportunity for the public to visit this beautiful 136-acre farm in Commack, which is typically only open to Smithtown residents. The program itself is a short walk from the parking lot, where visitors will also meet a variety of farm animals. With the exception of the pig, the animals can be fed, but you must bring some fresh veggies for them.
56 Gnarled Hollow Road, East Setauket (631) 689-8172
Maple-Sugaring Day: Saturday February 23rd from Noon–4pm
Cost: Adults $7, children $6
Benner's Farm is offering an informal look at the sugaring process. The Benner family will be stationed around the farm where visitors can stop by to observe and discuss the various stages of the sugaring process, tapping trees and collecting sap. Visitors can then warm themselves by a roaring fire as they watch the sap being boiled down to sugar. Pancakes topped with the sweet stuff will be served and maple candy will be available for purchase. In addition, visitors will get a taste of what life is like on this 15-acre farm.
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