We’re delighted to share with you a post by Vivian Reiss, a Toronto artist and blogger who also participated in our Syrup in the City program. Below is Vivian’s story about her experience with sap harvested from her Norway maple tree with Not Far From The Tree. Be sure to check out her website, too!
This year I decided to tap the maple tree in my back yard. Truthfully, I was never too fond of the tree. It blocked out the light from the rest of my backyard and however much I pruned it, it regrew in some mathematical equation until it was too huge to be easily trimmed. No plant ever survived under it or in the surrounding area of the tree. For many years I rued, “If only it was a Sugar maple, I could tap it for maple syrup.” And then this year, I found out that Norway maples could also be tapped, the only difference being that you needed 60 liters of sap to be boiled down to one liter of syrup as opposed to the 40 to 1 of the Sugar maple. People have gone to extremes to obtain the sweet taste of sugar; sailing the seas, colonizing nations, enslaving people, burning fields, clearcutting forests, jungles, planting palms, sorghum, corn, cane, beet, building apiaries and researching chemicals in labs. All this time I had sweetness growing in my own backyard in the disguise of that unloved tree!
Each day, first thing in the morning, I would go out into the backyard and empty the soda bottle “buckets” of sap to be boiled in the kitchen. Before emptying them, I would stand under the tree and take a large swig of the deliciously cold raw sap. Drinking, I felt myself a tree, the cold sap rising from the ground through my body and up into my veins, the energy of the awakening of Spring made physical.
Nights of freezing temperature and days of Spring-like warmth cause the sap to rise and flow. On March 29th, I gathered 18 liters of sap. It entailed watching the tree all day long so that the sap wouldn’t overflow, collecting it and endlessly boiling it. By now, I was glad I didn’t have a cow to milk because the responsibility to milk it would never end. With the tree, I knew that when the first truly warm day would arrive my duties would be over. On the first few warm days without nighttime temperatures below freezing the sap did stop flowing.
The taste of sweet is a metaphor for the wonderful and celebratory things in life. Birthday cakes are not mere bread but baked and iced confections of sugar, but maple syrup is also wonderful in savory delights.
Vivian made a maple vodka and gravlax with her syrup. Read her recipes and the rest of her story here.