Is there anything more Canadian than maple syrup? Traditionally, when Canadian Prime Ministers meet with foreign leaders, they bring gift bags that include items that are uniquely Canadian. These gift bags often include a selection of our finest maple syrup. It’s a national symbols and also a long-standing punch line. The much reported Great Maple Syrup Heist of 2012 had our friends south of the border exclaiming “only in Canada!”

Canadians stand with pride beside our maple leaf crested flag. There’s something sweet about maple that we just can’t get enough of. We drench our pancakes in it, cure our meats with it and Toronto even named its hockey team the Maple Leafs. Many wonder how we stumbled upon this sweet sap.

Collecting and processing the sap of sugar maple trees was a skill valued by First Nations peoples long before the arrival of European settlers. There is an Iroquois legend that explains the discovery of maple syrup. As the story goes, one late winter morning, an Iroquois chief set off for a day of hunting. He took aim at a deer with his bow but missed, driving his arrow into a sugar maple tree. He yanked out the arrow and didn’t notice the deep hole it made in the tree. All day long, a colourless liquid trickled from the hole, collecting in a bowl that was leaning against the tree. The following day his wife noticed the full bowl, and thinking it was water, used it to cook a venison stew. The resulting sweet stew was a happy accident, beginning the culinary tradition of maple syrup and maple-cured meats.

To learn more about the history of maple syrup, join us at the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival. The snow has melted and the sap is flowing! Bring the whole family and enjoy a taste of real maple syrup with pancakes, maple-inspired treats and a hot beverage by the bonfire. There will be games, music, wood carving and more!

At Terra Cotta Conservation Area, festivities run throughout March Break and each weekend from now until April 2. At Island Lake Conservation Area, festivities run on March 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19. Additional locations include Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area and Kortright Centre for Conservation. Buy your tickets online and receive unlimited general admission to all four festival locations. Admission is free for parks members!

New to the festival this year: Island Lake and Terra Cotta Conservation Areas will host a Sugarbush by Lamplight tour.  Take a guided tour through the sugarbush and spend time around the campfire with a hot beverage and maple taffy.

To find out more information, visit www.maplesyrupfest.com.

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