March is maple syrup season here in Iowa. We don't have a lot of maple groves in central Iowa, but there are a few maple syrup farms in north-east and eastern Iowa. A few weeks ago, Iowa State University forestry students brought the mobile maple syrup sugar shack to the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid. It's a trailer that's been outfitted with a wood-fired maple syrup evaporator, donated to the university by a fellow Iowan.
Here's an exterior photo to show that the sugar shack is indeed on wheels and mobile.
And here's the inside of the sugar shack, with the wood-fired evaporator. It was a cold day, with temperatures below freezing, so there wasn't any maple sap flowing from the trees yet. The maple sap starts flowing when the daytime temps reach above freezing, while the nighttime temps dip below freezing. For the demonstration, they filled the evaporator with tap water to show how it works to "evaporate" the sap down into a thick syrup.
|Logs to fuel the evaporator.|
Also during the event, the ISU forestry students served up a pancake breakfast with real maple syrup. I can't pass up a good pancake feed!
The ISU maple sugar shack tours the state in the spring. You can also find it on the ISU campus. (I was told that it's located near the greenhouses by Agronomy Hall, but I'm not exactly sure if I'm remembering that right.)
Do you have a favorite maple syrup recipe? I've been looking for a fun maple recipe to try out at home.