The Jew And The Carrot

The Miracle of Maple Syrup

By Meredith Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Sarah Chandler
Since I moved to the Adamah Farm 10 months ago, I have witnessed many miracles.

I don’t mean the kind of miracles we often think of, in a biblical sense: an event that defies all laws of nature, and happens only once-in-a-lifetime (or only once-in-history, and only a very long time ago). In fact, the miracles I’ve come to see around me are the exact opposite: they ARE the laws of nature, and they are happening every day. I have held a seed in my hand, a TINY tiny seed, that has everything inside it needed to turn into an onion. A whole onion! That I will eat! Inside that tiny tiny seed! Honestly, I may not even believe such a thing if I didn’t get to see it happen in front of me, and help this miracle occur day after day over the course of a farming season.

Hearing about these miracles is one thing, and witnessing them is another, but putting in long days of physical labor to actually help them occur is truly a life-changing experience. I’ve eaten maple syrup before; it’s delicious. Then, during my first farm tour at Adamah, I was told that it took 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple tree to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. I couldn’t believe it! It changed the way I thought about maple syrup – for a minute. But I quickly forgot.

Then, in early March, I spent my first week tapping sugar maple trees, carrying buckets of sap, and boiling it into maple syrup, and my relationship to maple syrup (and sugar in general) will never be the same. Let me give you a quick rundown of how this miracle actually occurs:

There is a special window of time (which we are in right now) when the weather is above freezing during the day but still freezing at night, and the trees haven’t budded yet. This is the time – and the only time all year – for sapping.

During this window, if you take a simple hand drill and make a hole (not too deep) in the trunk of a sugar maple tree, a clear liquid will start dripping out. Drip…drip…drip. If you hang a spout and a bucket there, and the weather is warm, that bucket will fill up in a day or two. And if you taste that liquid, it will taste DELICIOUS, remarkably like water but a little sweet, and also packed full of lots of minerals and other good things.

Wait a minute. Clear delicious liquid, enough to fill a bucket, from inside the trunk of a tree?? This is definitely miraculous. Amazingly unbelievable and wonderful. What an incredible treat!

You have to gather enough buckets-full of that sap – at least 80 gallons, just for starters – to boil it down to maple syrup, and you have to keep a fire roaring under it for long enough (usually a whole day) to boil away the 98% of it that is water. And from those 80 gallons you will be left with two precious, precious gallons of maple syrup.

Imagine what it is like, after a week of hauling 5-gallon buckets of sap and a full day of constantly tending a roaring fire, to hold in your hands a single bucket full of still warm maple syrup. Imagine how incredibly precious that syrup is! Imagine how you might use it if you got to have a jar of your very own – how long would you try to make it last? How would you want to enjoy it? How could you put a price on it?

What sapping has made me realize is that very special treats - miraculously good things - come with natural checks and balances that we have lost sight of. By doing the physical work of making these treats, we can reconnect to their actual cost and value. When we make maple syrup, we can only do it during a few weeks of the year, and we have to be careful to take only the surplus sap from each tree so that it doesn’t affect their health. Plus, it takes SO MUCH TIME AND WORK! These are the natural limits that, in a rational world, would determine how much sugar I would consume – simply the amount that is available based on what the land around me can sustainably provide, and what I can actually afford in time or money.

Not everyone can be a farmer, and not everyone should be – there is a lot of other important work out there that needs doing. But if you can spend a day on a farm, or talk to a farmer, or be a part of a process that creates even one food you eat, I promise it will change your life. After being at Adamah, I will simply never be able to see a bottle of pure maple syrup, or a bunch of carrots, or a single onion as anything less than a miracle. And once you truly see your food for the miracle that it is, it’s hard to ever take it for granted again.

Meredith Cohen came to Isabella Freedman as an Adamah Fellow last summer of 2013 and hasn’t left since. She is so excited to be staying on as a Field Apprentice this season, and to be taking over care of the dairy goats. Applications for the Adamah 2014 Fellowship are now available. Farm, Sing, Learn, Love! Visit the Adamah website for more details and to apply.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sap, maple trees, maple syrup, DIY

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.