HJ/EDApril 17, 2006

Harvesting nature's bounty: maple syrup

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

Winsted resident Bob Mochinski has always loved genuine maple syrup.

Ten years ago, the expense of the sweet treat convinced Mochinski to try making his own.

He started out harvesting a quart or two, but over the years, the hobby has grown.

Today, between his own trees, and those of willing family and friends, he taps about 50 trees, and in a good year, produces 10 to 15 gallons of maple syrup.

This is no small task, since the ratio of sap to syrup is about 40 to 1, so in order to produce 10 gallons of syrup, he needs to harvest and cook 400 gallons of sap.

To accomplish this, he built his own backyard evaporator.

He has a stainless steel pan that holds about 20 gallons of sap.

“I like to collect about 100 gallons of sap, and it takes about six hours to cook that down,” Mochinski said.

It is a lot of work, and clean up can be a lonely time, but Mochinski doesn’t mind.

“It is kind of nice to sit outside by a hot fire and enjoy the spring evenings,” Mochinski commented.

And, when the approximately five-week season is over, he has a new supply of genuine maple syrup to enjoy.

Local parks offer demos

“It’s been a pretty good season,” Carver County Parks Coordinator Lenny Klevan Schmitz said of the maple syrup harvest at Baylor Regional Park, south of New Germany.

Park employees tap about 30 trees in the park.

After the sap has been harvested, it is taken to the “sugar shack.” where it is cooked down to maple syrup and bottled.

The syrup that is produced in the park is given away as samples.

More than 200 kids from various school groups participated in the program this year.

The season generally runs from early March to the beginning of April, depending on weather conditions.

Schmitz said that the ideal conditions for sap harvesting include cold nights, where the temperature drops below 32 degrees, warm days, and adequate moisture in the ground.

Lake Maria State Park in Wright County also offers demonstrations of the sap harvesting and syrup making process.

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