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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: It's almost spring. And for northerners, those are sweet words indeed, because this is the time of year when maple trees thaw and that sweet sap flows. The indispensable pancake topping has its roots in Native American culture. Villagers would pierce the base of maple trees, fashion a wood chip to route the sap into a birch bark bucket, and then wait. Sap holds, on average, about two percent sugar so you have to boil 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. There is an Indian legend about how this came to be. One day, a prince woke to find his village empty. He searched the nearby wood and came upon a maple grove. There he found his missing villagers, sprawled across the forest floor, their mouths open to the golden liquid flowing from every tree. The prince ordered them back to work, but his people were held captive by the sweet taste of syrup. Enraged, the prince spilled an enormous basin with water and poured it over every tree. The water forever diluted the syrup and required that from then on people have to sweat for their sweets and boil their sap. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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