Photo courtesy of TRCA.
Creme eggs aren’t the only things releasing the goo at this time of year: when the days get longer and the snow starts melting, maple sap starts flowing and fans of pure Canadian sugar rushes head straight for the nearest sugar bush. We’re hard-pressed to think of a better way to celebrate the imminent arrival of spring than getting gooned on pancakes and maple syrup. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far out of the city to find a celebration of this quintessential Canadian sweetener.
Toronto and Region Conservation is running a Maple Syrup Festival weekends through April 13 (and every day during March Break) at Bruce’s Mill in Stouffville and the Kortright Centre in Vaughan. Both locations feature syrup sampling and demonstrations, wagon rides, face painting, kids’ shows, and guided tours, but only Kortright’s festival is also graced by Bubba the Clown.
For U of T students, Hart House Farm in Caledon hosts its own one-day festival on Saturday, April 4. Sugaring-off sprawls across the working farm’s 150 acres and includes tours of the sugar bush, historic and current sugar shacks, and limestone caves. You can follow the hiking trails down to the quarry ponds, take a traditional Finnish sauna, and indulge in all the pancakes you can eat.
If you’ve never watched maple syrup being made, you’ll be surprised by the low-tech simplicity of the process driven by nothing more than gravity, fire, and patience. Straight out of the tree, maple sap looks like water and tastes slightly sweet. Only after it’s been boiled and reduced for several hours does it become the concentrated syrup that we’re all familiar with. You’ve really got to appreciate whoever first thought up the idea of milking trees, and pity the brave person who experimented with sap from pine, beech, oak, and elm trees before discovering the magic ingredient in sugar maples.
Toronto and Region Conservation’s Maple Syrup Festival runs weekends through April 13 and every day during March Break; admission is $8 for adults, $6 for kids. The $30 fee for Hart House Farm’s Sugaring-off on April 4 includes the bus ride to Caledon, two square meals, a hot sauna, and plenty of entertainment and company, but is only open to members of Hart House and their guests.