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Outdoors

Outdoors: Maple syrup season is short but oh-so-sweet

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    Maple trees in the Maple Grove Picnic area of the Rocky River Reservation hold sap buckets.

    BRAD ZAHAR / CHRONICLE

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It’s common to associate maple syrup and maple trees with our neighbor to the north. And for good reason as Canada produces more than 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup.

But Ohio produces its share of the tasty sweet stuff, too. Records show the Buckeye State’s nearly 900 maple syrup farmers produced 85,000 gallons of syrup last year.

A part of that comes from Northeast Ohio. Our area is home to many maple trees which, over the last few weeks, were tapped for their sap.

In late winter, trees prepare for the change in the seasons. Maple tree sap tastes much like sweet water when it is tapped. This sweetness at its origin is what gives maple syrup its distinctive taste when used to top things like pancakes and other foods.

The sap is 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar. But that 2 percent is enough to get folks excited about its potential as a topping for our food.

The process of converting the sap into syrup isn’t as productive as you might expect. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

Buckets are filled with the sap, then boiled to evaporate the water — leaving the good stuff.

Over the past few weeks, Lorain County Metro Parks and Cleveland Metroparks have offered hikes which took visitors through their “maple forest” areas.

Lorain County’s tours have ended, but Cleveland still has one more weekend of hikes left, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. at the Maple Grove Picnic Area in Rocky River Reservation.

Lorain County Metro Parks is hosting a Maple Cook-Off on March 23 at Henry’s Barn in Oberlin. Pre-registration to be a maple chef is required in person at Carlisle Reservation. If you wish to be a taste tester, you can still sign up but registration for that job ends today. That can be done online through the Lorain County Metro Parks website.

Rescue on ice

I was asked his week by family and friends if I had seen the weekend news about the Coast Guard rescuing nearly 150 stranded ice fishermen off of Catawba.

I am relieved and thankful everyone was rescued safely. If you missed the story, an ice floe broke loose and it started drifting out into the lake, trapping the approximately 150 fishermen.

A month or two ago, I wrote a column where I spoke with Ken Fry, outdoor skills specialist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

He told me “there is no such thing as safe ice.” No matter what the condition reports say, in mid-March we are getting to the time of year where the ice can be even more dangerous as evidenced by Sunday’s incident.

In January an ice fisherman fell through a local pond while I was out snowshoeing. While he was OK, this incident reminded me to exercise extreme caution and make sure I have a safety plan and all the proper equipment when going out on the ice.

While many of the anglers stranded Sunday had a plan and the equipment to be safe on the ice, this is a strong reminder for us as sportsmen to let someone know where we are going and what we are doing in case there is a safety issue like this. Our lives are valuable and there will always be another animal or fish and another day to enjoy the outdoors if we get back safely each and every time.

Contact Brad Zahar at bzaharoutdoors@gmail.com.
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