I wrote last month about Full Moon Feast’s Hunger Moon, and how I was using winter roots to nourish and sustain me during the first cold, hard winter I’d had in as long as I can remember (perhaps 7 years). So I was thrilled that the moon cycle for this month was Sap Moon. As much as I love to cook with beets and celeriac, and as sexy as turnips and rutabagas are, there’s nothing like a hint of sweetness with the promise of spring.
There are actually maple trees in my new bioregion, and when it’s at least 40 degrees out during the day but still below freezing at night, with snow still on the ground, the sap shoots up in the trees to pump nutrients into the newly appearing buds. The sugar in maple trees produced during synthesis is stored in the wood during winter, mostly in the form of carbs. Right around this time of year is when it us converted to sucrose and dissolved into sap. The pressure from warm day temperatures gets the sap flowing, and the cold night temperatures create a suction which draws water to the tree, replenishing the sap.
I was lucky enough to attend a demonstration at my local co-op, and we learned the basics of how to tap trees for maple. Boiling the sap down into syrup actually takes many weeks, and the miniscule amount of syrup one receives from buckets worth of syrup helps explain the steep price tag on this commodity item. I mean, you are boiling the sap down to 1/35th of its original volume! And that’s just for sugar maples–for red maples it’s 1/70!
The right trees and climate for making maple syrup isn’t limited to Wisconsin. In fact, maple is produced in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and parts of New York and Pennsylvania. You can start tapping trees about a month before the snow melts, usually sometime between late February and late March.
Although I’ve purchased locally produced maple syrup, and made the delicious maple-roasted pecans described in Prentice’s book, I’m actually far more interested in what’s going on energetically during this moon cycle. Think about it. The snow is still on the ground and it is still bitterly cold at night, but the warmth during the day reminds the tree that spring is coming and the buds need nutrients to grow. It’s kind of like having a lot of projects in the works that you want to get going (and that seem possible with the hint of spring), but then realizing all of your hot leads are still, well, cold. This creates a lot of pressure, and you use the energy to really stop incubating ideas and let them shoot up into the world. It’s possible that I’m reading a bit too much into things, or perhaps I am just very in tune with the seasons as I seem to be facing the exact same thing. This spring, I will use maple syrup and the sighting of maple trees as a reminder to shoot for the stars–or at least the tallest tree branches–to remember that not all is lost in the depths of cold and darkness, and that all I need to do is to take the ideas I’ve let incubate during winter and allow them to shoot out into the world.