Near winters end the people who live in deciduous forests have an opportunity like none other… to tap for sap water. Not just any sap but the kind which contains natural sugar that when forced to evaporate gives us the sweetest natural resource for the taking, maple syrup.
On Saturday March 3rd, to the delight of many, the University of Illinois Extension’s natural resource staff will once again be putting the tap to the trees in Russell Woods Forest Preserve, located one mile west of Genoa, Illinois on route 72. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the staff will be hosting their annual Maple Syrup Fest. Included in the day are on the hour discussions of the history of maple syrup, how to identify the right tree and a hike to the woods to tap one of their own. Before or after the hike friends can chat with volunteers outside at the evaporator pans over the open fire as you wait for that amber treat. “Kids love the smell and say our syrup reminds them of marshmallows cooked outdoors,” said Peggy Doty, Extension Educator.
Come early for syrup taste testing if you can’t wait all day to taste the results. Each person gets a pancake with a small sample of real syrup and one of the often used corn syrup counterpart. After a tasting snack and a tapping tour families can work on crafts together and enjoy an inexpensive lunch thanks to the local Prairie Gem 4-H club who will provide lunch and snack items at their fundraiser table.
“We have had such a mild winter the trees have been anxious and running sap water for awhile so we need to get out and collect it soon,” said Doty. The day is free but they always graciously accept donations to support the programming. So set the day aside for friends and family and join them once again for a day in the woods. For questions about the day call the University of Illinois Extension/Natural Resource Center at 815-784-2000 .