|Sapcicle on a broken boxelder twig|
Websites for sugaring operations are quick to root the practice in indigenous folklore (whether it be the Abenaki story of Gluskape diluting sugar, the Haudenosaunee story of the chief sticking his hatchet in a tree, or another story of red squirrels chewing branches). I tend to be skeptical of the credibility of websites that generalize these stories and say things like, "The Indians made maple syrup. They would take a hatchet and cut a gash in the tree and insert a wooden or bark shim. The sap poured off into pots. The trees were bigger back then, and must have had plenty of sap. The Indians concentrated the sap by dropping hot rocks into the pot to boil off some of the water." Adding to my mistrust of these sources is that I'm always skeptical until I try something myself to prove (or disprove) it or observe it myself (like watching a red squirrel "tap" a sugar maple at Rock Point and come back later to eat the icicles and lick the wound sites).
I paddled the Winooski River with Brian on Saturday and at one point we paddled under a silver maple tree yawning over the gentle river. From some past flood event a few of the lowest branches had been broken off. The sap had been oozing out of the broken twigs and in the cold had formed icicles. Brian and I enjoyed sucking the sweet icicles off the branches. With such a sweet surprise, I'm sure any curious mind would have wondered what other trees would ooze a sweet sap and how could they harvest more of it. I'd start breaking branches, bending them over to collect in little containers. I don't know that I would rock boil them, but I'd drink nothing but sap water for the first month or two of spring when it was flowing in the maple genus. I'll bet harvesting sap from twigcicles would have come before "tapping" the trees, or harvesting in some other way from the bole, or trunk, of the tree.
Where: Broken branches everywhere
Other notes: Maples are still the only species to be flowing so far.