Maple sugaring has been a way of life for more than a century on farms in Western Maryland, once one of the centers of the maple syrup industry in the U.S. In the 1930s, there were an estimated 40 to 50 commercial tree-tapping operations in Garrett County alone, producing 200,000 gallons of maple sugar annually.
Though on a smaller scale, maple sugaring still thrives in the state’s western counties. Family-owned Steyers Brothers Maple in Oakland, for example, has been producing its Garrett County Pure Maple Syrup for more than 100 years—and is open to visitors today. (They also make a nice maple sugar candy.) The Casselman Inn, built in 1842 along the historic National Trail, continues to serve its own maple syrup (and homemade apple butter) with their buckwheat cakes, French toast, and biscuits. The eco-friendly Savage River Lodge in Allegany County uses its own maple syrup to flavor its popular crème brûlée. At Cunningham State Falls State Park in Frederick County, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hosts the nearly 50-year-old annual Maple Syrup Festival.
But Baltimoreans need not travel that far for introduction to maple sugaring, a practice which originates with North America’s Indigenous peoples. Beginning after President’s Day, many local parks offer annual maple sugaring events, where participants can observe the tapping of trees and the collection of sap, which begins to flow when temperatures fall below freezing at night and then rise again during the day.
The best part? Learning how the sap—98-percent water, two-percent sugar—gets boiled down to golden brown syrup, and then sampling maple candies and syrup and pancakes afterward. Among other destinations, check for times and dates at: Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Cockeysville, Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Cromwell Valley Park in Parkville, Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville, and Marshy Point Nature Center in Middle River.