The sweet season begins and ends with the running of maple sap that has been awakened by warm sunshine. Totally dependent on temperature, sap flows when the daytime temperature is above freezing and dips to below freezing at night.
Early to mid-March has traditionally provided the sweet spot for weather conditions.
A visit to a local sugar bush is a tradition that many of us share. If you haven’t had the experience, there are plenty of opportunities throughout Ontario to witness the age-old practice of collecting sap and boiling it to syrupy perfection. There are festivals dedicated to maple syrup, conservation areas with a maple sugar bush and related programs as well as commercial operations that open their sugar shack doors to the public.
In this issue, Andrew Hind guides us along a maple sugar trail in the Muskoka region. A journey into the sweet season goes beyond the popular application of syrup poured over pancakes. Maple syrup is transformed into sugar that can be used as a substitute for brown sugar, flavoured water and spirits, butter and my favourite, taffy.
The simple process of pouring maple syrup on fresh white snow, transforms it into shiny, sticky taffy. The stream of taffy is lifted from the snow by twisting it around a stick and it’s ready to eat. The snow conditions must be just right for this method to successfully transform the syrup. Since you can’t always count on cooperative snow, the experience of enjoying taffy created in this way is even more special.
There may or may not be snow on the ground on the first day of spring. The spring equinox is March 19 this year. It’s the day when daylight hours and night time hours are equal. It’s not the day that we can pack away our winter clothes even though the temperature may feel like spring. Winter weather hangs on for weeks despite the date on the calendar.
Spring officially begins just as March Break is ending. Many maple syrup programs run every day of the week during the school holiday. To find out where to experience the sweet season, check out the events calendar in this issue that features a section dedicated to March Break activities.
If your family is going further afield for the break, Tanni Haas offers some great advice in the Baby section this month. Being prepared for misadventure and anticipating what it will take to get your child through an experience are among the pillars of parenting.
At the other end of the parenting scale are teenagers. As kids get older you might need different strategies to keep communication lines open. Check out Kathryn Streeter’s tips in the Tween section. No matter your kid’s age, plan for some sweet adventures this month.