While southeastern PA may not be the powerhouse maple producer that New England is, we certainly have our share of sugar maple trees. And we also have cold weather, which is a necessary component of making maple syrup.
Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees (sugar maples tend to be the best variety). Tapping a tree is a relatively simple process, but determining the right time for optimal flow can’t be predicted too far in advance. Since the sap tends to flow best when nights are below freezing and days are in the 40s, February and March are often the best months to collect sap in this area.
After collecting sap from the tree, it must be boiled to make syrup. When you consider that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, you begin to understand the higher cost of real maple syrup. Maple candy is made by boiling the syrup at a higher temperature, then slowly cooled to a sweet treat meant to be savored.
If you’re interested in seeing this process in action, these local organizations are happy to show you how it’s done. (And maybe also offer you a taste!) Some may also offer private programs for scout or other groups.
Pennypack Environmental Center will hold a Maple Sugaring Open House on Saturday January 20 from 12:00-3:00. Attendees will learn about maple sugaring. Activities include boiling sap to syrup, making maple candy, crafts and other activities. Register by emailing PEC@phila.gov.
On Saturday February 24 and March 2, from 10:00 to 3:30, visitors to Peter Wentz Farmstead, can watch farmers tap maple trees, collect the sap and create syrup. Guides will teach about maple syrup’s Indigenous origins and trace the process through modern day. (Like all outdoor activities, this is weather permitting – the temperature needs to be just right for the sap to flow!) This program is free.
Churchville Nature Center will host their Maple Sugar Day on Sunday February 25 from 1:00 to 3:00. Attendees will learn how to tap maple trees, collect the sap and make syrup. They will learn the history of maple sugaring and get to taste real maple syrup. Admission is $6 and registration is required.
Wissahickon Trails will also hold their Maple Sugaring Festival on Sunday February 25 from 11:00 to 3:00. There is a $10 per person fee for those over age 2 (with a pay-it-forward option to cover those who may find the cost prohibitive). Scheduled tours will guide attendees along a nature trail and through the process of creating maple syrup. Tours will finish with pancakes, real maple syrup, and hot chocolate. Registration is required.
Peace Valley Nature Center will host their Maple Sugar Festival on Saturday March 2 from 11:00 to 2:00. Visitors will travel to the sugar bush to collect sap to add to the boiling pot to make syrup. No registration is necessary for this event. The center will also host a program for scouts in grade 1 to 6 only on February 25 (spots are limited; email firstname.lastname@example.org to book).
Fox Chase Farm will host their Maple Sugar Day on Saturday March 2 from 12:00 to 4:00. Visitors will learn about maple sugaring, watch maple candy being made and sample pancakes with pure maple syrup. There will also be crafts, storytelling and maple products for sale. Admission is $5 (cash only) for those over age 2.
Maple Sugar Magic happens at Green Lane Park on Saturday March 2 at 11:00 and 2:00. For the 35th year, Montgomery County will celebrate the season with tree-tapping and sap-gathering and boiling demonstrations as visitors learn about the use of maple sugar going back to the 1500s. Pure Pennsylvania maple syrup, candy and cream will be available for sale. The program is free.