Stop by the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 1-4 p.m. for Discovery Station: Maple Sugaring. (MDC file photo)
My family loves Saturday morning pancakes. The recipe is on page 49 of my worn Betty Crocker cookbook. Since the page has endured countless (weekly) spills and wipe-downs, the book opens right to it with ease. Weekend pancakes are a tradition my father started when I was a kid. I've carried on the sweet tradition with my husband and our son, but these special fellows have added some variation with chocolate chips and sometimes blueberries in the mix. The one constant ingredient is the syrup.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) natural events calendar on my wall says Maple sap should be flowing best starting this week. According to the calendar, it's the variation from freezing nights and thawing days that causes the change. This annual natural event always causes me to put a little more thought into our tradition.
It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, according to the MDC, and it is a completely natural food. According to the full nutritional profile posted at www.PureMapleProducts.com, the sweet punch in a tablespoon of Maple syrup packs nutritional benefits as well. For example, the site touts Maple syrup as an excellent source of both manganese and zinc. Manganese is important in antioxidant defenses and energy production. Zinc is also an important antioxidant, and it's good for fighting damage caused by oxidized LDL cholesterol and in supporting the immune system.
Though some think Maple sugaring, and syrup making, is more of a tradition in the Northeast, Missouri has sugar Maples, too, and has enjoyed a long tradition harvesting the sap. According to the MDC, the history of collecting sap goes back to its use by Native Americans who originally used it to make sugar. Once settlers arrived, they learned the practice from Native Americans and the sap collection and uses evolved from there. So whether we purchase our syrup from a store, or tap a tree ourselves, consuming Maple syrup is a direct connection to our natural world and our historical roots.
So as my family gathers around the table for pancakes and syrup each weekend, there are multiple blessings to count. We share the connection to the land by knowing where our sweet syrup came from and we absorb the nutritional benefits in the natural Maple syrup. However, my favorite benefit is the sweetness of a slow Saturday morning spent with my two favorite people.
For more information on making Maple syrup or sugar, go online to http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/how/ma..., or stop by the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 1-4 p.m. for Discovery Station: Maple Sugaring. This event is open to all ages and no registration is required.