Friday, February 25, 2011

EP Road Trip #3: Sugar Moon Farm

Recently I started volunteering at the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs. When I signed up I was told about a trip the Centre was taking to the Sugar Moon Farm in Englishtown. It's been a while since I've been on a Road Trip, so I was quite excited, and even more so when I heard it was a maple farm.

(The Sugar Moon Farm is located at one of the highest elevations in Nova Scotia, so the amount of snow it receives is exponentially greater than what I'm used to seeing in Halifax.)

While there are roughly 150 varieties of maple trees in the world, the Sugar Maple is the preferred species for making syrup because of its high sugar content. The Sugar Maple is native to the north-eastern United States and eastern Canada, which means this is the only region in the world that has the climate necessary for producing maple syrup.

Maple Sugaring is not a particularly new art form. In fact, First Nations people were slashing trees and collecting sap in birch bark buckets thousands of years before European settlers arrived. The European settlers though, were responsible for advancing the form to the more efficient drilling/tapping process used today.

(Our guide explains the early sap collecting process.)

Efficiency is a relative term I suppose, since sugar maple sap is 97% water. This means that you can easily drink it, but it also means that 40 Litres of sap must be evaporated to make 1 Litre of pure maple syrup. Furthermore, it means that one tree can only sustainably produce 1 Litre of syrup per year (sap only runs for a few weeks during the early spring).

(The brand new evaporator the farm installed this year.)

After the tour we received a free all-you-can-eat pancake lunch with pork sausages and veggie beans. I kindly helped the kitchen staff clean up by finishing off the leftovers to save on waste.

My favourite part of the tour was rolling maple sugar in the snow to make candy. The boiling hot, liquid maple sugar is ladled onto snow, and a popsicle stick is used to roll the quickly solidifying sugar into a lollipop-like treat.

I wanted to conclude this post by giving a big thank-you to the YMCA for allowing me to come along on the trip. It was a unique experience, and I look forward to many more.

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