About a dozen children looked on curiously at a tree-sapping demonstration Feb. 25 at Homestead Park in Hilliard.
But tasting the final product might have been the most enjoyable aspect of the event.
“I liked tasting the syrup,” said 5-year-old Nora Woolf of Galloway.
Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks sponsored the Syrup Time program to demonstrate how tree sap is collected and boiled to create pure maple syrup.
A taste test was provided to allow visitors to compare pure maple syrup to the commercially made product, which includes corn syrup, preservatives, additional flavoring and other ingredients.
Sarah Hunter, a Metro Parks naturalist, led demonstrations for about 50 people who streamed through during the one-hour program.
Syrup-making has been demonstrated at other parks in the Metro Parks system but last weekend was the first at Homestead Park, she said.
Hunter said she learned about the process last year at a Girl Scout event and asked to present the program at Homestead Park.
First, Hunter explained how to identify varieties of maple trees by the shape of leaves and the appearance of branches.
She also provided a history lesson, sharing that syrup is believed to have first been discovered in present-day America in the 16th century when what was believed to be water seeping from a tree trunk was boiled for cooking but found to have a sweet taste.
Tree sap, however, is only 2 percent sugar, Hunter said.
Therefore, 40 to 45 gallons of tree sap is required to make one gallon of pure maple syrup.
Ohio is the second-largest manufacturer of maple syrup in the United States, said Carl Gleditsch, a volunteer for Metro Parks who was demonstrating the boiling process.
Visitors did not see the complete process because it takes at least several hours to boil off the sap, depending on the kind of flame, elevation above sea level and other variables, he said.
Boiling evaporates the water, Gleditsch said, and leaves behind the sugar in the syrup.
The maximum amount sugar is about 66 to 67 percent; otherwise, the sugar will “fall out” of the solution and crystallize, he said.
Maple syrup can be made with less than 66 percent sugar, but manufacturing laws, such as those in Vermont, require that pure maple syrup contain 66 to 67 percent sugar, Gleditsch said.
Will and Frith Woolf of Galloway said they learned about the event on a website listing children’s activities and brought their children, Nora, and Hal, 2.
“I’ve never seen syrup-making so I thought it would be fun for all of us,” Frith Woolf said.
Robert Woodland of Plain City came to Homestead Park to ride bicycles with his son, Riley, 6, and he said the program was a pleasant surprise.
Hunter said the syrup made at Homestead Park cannot be sold, for a variety of reasons, but a few employees might enjoy the modest amounts made.