Maple Syrup Festival sweet weekend treat in Duncan

Did you know we can collect sap from our own trees right here on Vancouver Island?

We all know about tapping maple trees in eastern Canada for sap to make delicious syrup, but did you know we can collect sap from our own trees right here on Vancouver Island? It’s time to find out all about it.

The 10th Annual Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival is set for Saturday, Feb. 4, and Sunday, Feb. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the BC Forest Discovery Centre.

Organizers promise this event will give the community an opportunity to learn how sap is tapped from local Bigleaf maples and turned into syrup that rivals the flavour of any produced in the eastern provinces, while highlighting local producers.

The BC Forest Discovery Centre continues to partner with the Vancouver Island Sapsuckers, a group of local maple syrup producers, to put on this highly popular event for the community.

Visitors will explore many facets of maple sugaring in a fun festival atmosphere with live entertainment and the aroma of hot syrup from the evaporator. You can even look inside the evaporator and learn how it works.

Tapping demos with knowledgeable experts who know how to answer questions from young and old, syrup tasting and even mini-workshops will occur throughout the day, including the availability of start-up kits and other tapping supplies so visitors can go home and tap their own trees.

This festival is one of the few places visitors can sample and purchase Bigleaf maple syrup in an onsite marketplace that also features many other locally produced maple products.

Chris Gale, Forest Discovery Centre manager, says the festival draws about 2,000 people.

According to Gary Backlund of the Vancouver Island Sapsuckers, co-author of Bigleaf Sugaring: Tapping the Western Maple, tapping maple trees for sap and syrup is easy and requires little in the way of equipment and tools.

“Making syrup isn’t that difficult either. However, like wine there is a knack to making really fine syrup. The tapping for sap and boiling to produce syrup is known as sugaring. Maple sap and syrup contain no additives or preservatives, and are rich in minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. The sap can be used in place of water for many recipes including soup, rice, bread, tea, etc. Although most people associate pancakes with syrup, there’s hundreds of uses from baked beans to glazes and desserts,” he says.

Weather is crucial for successful sap-gathering on the west coast, according to Backlund.

“I find that if there’s snow on the ground for a couple of days then we’re okay. We can do a sap run when the snow melts. You either have to have cold air temperatures for a few days or snow on the ground for a few days. Either one of those seems to work,” says Backlund.

If you and the family have been experiencing a bit of cabin fever from the winter weather this year, it’s a great chance for some old fashioned outdoor fun.

While visiting the centre, you can take in the many other museum displays and buildings, warm up around the fire pits, enjoy a festival feature menu item from the concession, and take unlimited train rides on the Green Hornet.

Tickets are $10 for adults, seniors, and youth (13-18 years of age) with children aged three to 12 getting in for $8 and the wee ones admitted free.

Entry is free with a BC Forest Discovery Centre membership as well, so why not investigate becoming a member this year?

For more information, visit www.bcforestdiscoverycentre.com for all event and membership information.