By Christine Bryant
Tucked away between Waggoner Road and Blacklick Creek is a group of maple trees that receives a crowd of visitors each February.
While the trees are still dormant, they come alive even though winter temperatures keep blooms and buds at bay.
It’s maple syrup season and the staff at Shepherd’s Corner Farm and Ecology Center in Blacklick embrace it, using a variety of resources on the center’s property to produce the goodness nature provides.
For those who want a little taste of maple syrup made just outside their backyards, they’re in luck. Shepherd’s Corner not only sells its maple syrup when the facility is open to the public, but also hosts a maple syrup tour each year in March.
This year’s event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on March 4, will show participants how maple syrup is made from start to finish. Attendees will also learn about the trees, tour the woods and see the machinery used to boil the syrup.
“We do the whole process on our property,” said Sister Diane Kozlowski, who helps run the maple syrup program. “Late January and early February we tap trees on the property, mostly in the woods.”
Though the trees are still in their version of hibernation for the winter, when the temperatures rise during the day yet freeze at night, the sap inside the trees comes alive.
“With this fluctuation in temperature, the sap begins to flow through the trees,” Kozlowski said. “The ideal temperature is 20s at night and 40s in the day. If it is too warm or too cold, the sap does not run.”
After tapping the tree and collecting the sap in bags and buckets, staff members boil the sap in an evaporator, mostly over a wood fire. When the sap is collected, it is comprised of about 2 percent sugar.
“We are boiling off the water,” Kozlowski said. “Sap becomes syrup when it is 66 percent sugar.”
The remainder of the boiling occurs in large pans in the kitchen. Staff then pour the syrup through a large filter and bottle it.
If the syrup is gathered and made early in the season, it tends to be lighter than syrup made later in the season, Kozlowski said.
“The sugar in the tree changes over this time and that affects the color of the syrup,” she said.
The cost to attend the maple syrup tour on March 4 is $6. Registration is required, with a deadline of March 2. To register, call (614) 866-4302 or go to shepherdscorner.org. Shepherd’s Corner is located at 987 N. Waggoner Road.