Maple syrup and more
An hour's drive east from Ottawa, Ontario is Fulton's Sugar Bush. This is a sugar shack. From February to April you can experience how the sap of the sugar maple trees is boiled down to maple syrup. There are many interesting things to discover about maple syrup production.
A Sugar Shack in the middle of the forest
The farm is not easy to find. Even our GPS gave up as we typed in the farm's address, 291 Concession Road 6. Only a question mark appears in the display. But thank God there is Google. Well-armed with the directions on the Fulton's website, the Google map and route description and the support of the navigation device, we find our way into the maple forest of the Fulton family. If we didn't have the exact directions from Fulton's Sugar Shack's website, we would never have gotten here.
The journey goes through small villages and past individual farms, which become increasingly rare the closer we get to the Fulton's maple forest. We cover the last kilometers on wet and unpaved roads, which are so damp in some places that I don't want to get off here. I don't want to be stuck knee deep in mud. The first cabin we come across, with the name Fulton's emblazoned on it, is of all things surrounded by damp mud left by the snowmelt. Thankfully, the owner comes out to meet us and sends us a few hundred yards down the path to a large – gravel-covered – parking lot in front of Fultons' Sugar Bush, where we can get out of our car without getting our feet wet.
We learn more about maple syrup at Fulton's Sugar Shack
Here - in the middle of the forest - is a large wooden hut from which steam and smoke rises. An indication that the sap of the surrounding maple trees flows and is boiled to syrup. A wide network of thick and thin rubber hoses runs through this maple forest. As soon as the first dew periods begin in spring, the holes are drilled in the trees, only a certain number per tree depending on the thickness of the trunk so that it can deliver its sweet juice for years. On days when the thermometer rises above zero degrees, it drags the juice into the upper reaches of the tree, and it drips slowly but steadily through the hoses used, through which it is routed to the catch tanks in the sugar cane.
Experience how maple syrup is made
That's exactly what we were looking for. We want to experience for ourselves how the sap of the trees ultimately becomes what tastes so delicious on pancakes, fruit or pastries. The juice is healthy. Sweet healthy? Is that even possible? But yes! The sugar of the Natives is one of the healthiest sweeteners. It mainly consists of sucrose. Other ingredients are malic acid, minerals, phenolic compounds, amine compounds, and vitamins.
Harvesting maple sap
I had visited and attended guided tours on other maple syrup farms before, but never at harvest time. I knew the method of extracting sap from the tree. To do this, you drill a hole in the trunk and put a metal valve into it. The farmer hangs a bucket on it to collect the juice. He then laboriously collects the juice in vats or barrels. Horse-drawn vehicles transport them to the sugar shack via mud paths. A strenuous job for which you really have to enjoy eating the maple syrup in order to take it upon yourself.
Today's harvesting methods
Today the juice is collected more conveniently. This method can only be seen when the juice is actually running. Then the farmer lays a network of plastic tubes between the maple trees. The juice runs through this directly into the sugar camp. The principle is not very different from the method of collecting juice. Here, too, holes are drilled into the trunk. Only now, instead of a valve, you fasten a hose in the tree, which leads to an even thicker hose. This transports the juice directly into the pot in the sugar shack. The sugar maple forests are criss-crossed with a web of tubing in spring. In the sugar smelter, dirt is first removed from the juice. It is then boiled in a vat until it is concentrated and has the desired sweetness.
Products made from the sap of the maple trees
The Fultons have been using this to make maple syrup for four generations, which belongs on every breakfast table in Canada. And there are other delicacies that certainly ensure inner body well-being: there are caramel candies in the shape of maple leaves, but also maple syrup jams with the flavors of various berries that grow in the region. But that's not why we're here this time. The Fultons are inventive and have been testing what they can do with the gross residue left over from syrup production. They found out that this is a wonderful way to ensure external well-being - with cosmetic products that rub off dead skin cells. These cleanse the skin soothingly and care for it at the same time.
The Indians were already familiar with candies made from maple syrup. They poured the juice on the snow and made lollipops with wooden sticks. Today they just look a little different.
Care series made from maple syrup
The care series for the skin, which is made from the waste products of the syrup juice, is new. This creates care products that smell good. During the filtering process of the tree sap, substances remain that the sap already carries with it in the tree. These particles have previously been considered waste and have been thrown away. Not so at Fultons. The owner of the farm, Shirley Fulton-Deugo, comes from a family that has always been very enterprising. She was familiar with spa products made from honey, fruits or vegetables. So she thought, why shouldn't you be able to do the same with maple syrup?
Do it yourself
Said and done. She read books and learned what these toiletries are made of and how to mix them. Then it was her family's turn. Each member had to try her test creams and scrubs for a year. Her daughter told me that there were even times when she applied a test version of the cream to one side of the calf and a second to the other - to see which one worked better.
This process resulted in a line of maple syrup spa products. Wellness temples in Canada have discovered them. More and more use the care products that actually consist of the waste from the maple syrup production. I can understand why. The effect is phenomenal.
Well-being for the hands with maple products
We also want to test the products and dip our hands in lukewarm water. Then the daughter of the current owner rubs our hands with a peeling cream made from the waste from the maple syrup production. The rough cream rubs away skin impurities like sand. Then she creams our hands with a lotion that is also made from maple syrup. After that, I can't stop smelling my hands. They smell delicious all day long with the sweet aroma of the syrup, which I can usually only enjoy at breakfast. That convinced me so much that I immediately bought a lip balm from her cosmetics line. And thus I walk the rest of our journey through Canada with the good taste of maple syrup on my lips and hands - a real wellness experience that you can experience on site from mid-February to the second half of April.
Fulton's Pancake House and Sugar Bush
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Source Maple Syrup Production: On-site research with support from Tourism Ontario and Tourism Ottawa
Text maple syrup production: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs as well as TravelWorldOnline and Pixabay
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline