GENOA – The annual Maple Syrup Fest is from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today at the Russell Woods Forest Preserve Natural Resource Center, one mile west of Genoa off state Route 72.
The activities are free. In the morning, there will be sample size pancakes for comparing real syrup to the corn syrup counterpart.
Genoa Prairie Gems 4-H club will sell lunch and bake goods.
Each year at this time, University of Illinois Extension staff and volunteers start tapping the trees in the lowland forest.
As environmentally unfriendly as this may seem, it has been happening for hundreds of years.
The woodland Native Americans were thought to inadvertently come across the sap water in the deciduous trees. The pioneers perfected the process by cooking the sweet water into usable sugar, candy, and maple syrup.
“The trees are providing us with this wonderful renewable resource but you have to tap within a small window of time to get it. We tap trees near the end of winter to retrieve the sap water.
“The sap water runs best when the temperatures climb above forty degrees in the day and drop below freezing at night. “It is then cooked outdoors in a large flat pan in order to evaporate the water leaving the concentration of sugars behind. If a person wants one gallon of maple syrup they will have to harvest 40 to 100 gallons of sap water, depending on the type of maple tree.
People who are interested in trying this at home should come to this event and see how it works,” Peggy Doty, energy and environmental stewardship educator, said.
New this year will be the Native Skills Cabin and Winter Tree Identification.
A native skills instructor will be available to discuss different natural tools used by Native Americans in day to day life. The Native Skills Cabin will open at 10 a.m. for about an hour and then again at 1 p.m.
At 11 a.m. Al Roloff, of the DeKalb County Forest Preserve, will teach winter tree identification.
There also will be an opportunity to learn about invasive species removal techniques will follow.
This information is helpful to landowners and steward volunteers.
The staff and volunteers will be giving talks and demonstrations about the sugaring process throughout the day. The sap water will be boiling down outside most of day.
For more information, call the Natural Resource Education Center at 815-784-2000.