YMCA rings in spring early with maple sugaring demonstrations

Mar 10, 2018

As spring nears, the next few weeks are crucial for the region’s maple syrup industry. Although Dartmouth is not home to as many maple operations as, say, Vermont, the YMCA is still providing education on its own property.

On March 10, the YMCA invited the community to its Gulf Road property to learn all there is to know about maple sap tapping.

The YMCA owns 10 maple trees, although it’s not nearly enough to make maple syrup, explained Sonja Robinson. Ten gallons of sap is needed to produce one gallon of maple syrup, and the YMCA does not belong to a producers association.

Instead, Robinson and her father Fred Hutchings host weekly sap and maple syrup education events in the month of March featuring the trees. As per tradition, each tree on the YMCA’s property has been named by Robinson.

With several families gathered, Robinson explained the current weather is perfect for sap collection. With highs in the 40s and bright sun shining on maple trees, it moves the sap down from the branches and into the trunk.

“From the top the sap comes down from the branches and flows down the tree like a bloodstream,” Robinson explained.

From there, the sap can be harvested through several techniques, like drilling or installing special devices to drain. Care must be taken to only tap into the tree’s outer area, or damage could occur.

“I didn’t know how much work it is to drill the holes,” said Devin Baptista, 13, after he tried his hand at drilling a hole.

Once sap is collected, it needs to be immediately used, or else bacteria could damage it. Hutchings was on hand to show the group how an evaporator works. The device thickens the sap and removes moisture.

What comes out of the machine is maple sand, a gritty substance that needs further filtering before it comes out in its final form as maple syrup.

Robinson also showed the group a more low-tech way to process sap into maple syrup perfected by Native Americans. Their system used only fire, special baskets, and stone, although it produces grittier maple syrup.

The YMCA will host three more tours and sap demonstrations at its 276 Gulf Road Location. Tours are scheduled for 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m. on March 17.