MAKING MAPLE Bob Collins of Arrowvale Farm and Campground sugars off a vat full of sap from the big leaf maple trees on his Beaver Creek property near Port Alberni. Arrowvale hosts its maple fest Feb. 29 and March 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.(SONJA DRINKWATER/Alberni Valley News)

Arrowvale Farm near Port Alberni hosts maple syrup fest

Taste west coast maple syrup on Leap Year Saturday and watch demonstrations too

Arrowvale Farm and Campground will hold its annual maple festival on Saturday, Feb. 29 and Sunday, March 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.

Ann and Bob Collins have tapped the Bigleaf maple trees on their land for the past decade, producing small batches of maple syrup with a distinctly west coast flavour. While Bob was busy earlier this month tapping trees and boiling off the sap to make syrup for sale, he will also demonstrate both for people who have never seen the syrup-making process.

While maple syrup is known as an eastern Canadian delicacy, and “sugar shacks” are prolific in Ontario and Quebec, Bigleaf maple trees that grow in the Pacific Northwest also produce sap. The taste is different than that of maple syrup that comes from Quebec, and that you might find on grocery store shelves.

The growing season is different for eastern sugar maples and western Bigleaf maples: eastern species are tapped in the spring when the weather has warmed up enough that the sap inside the tree is “flowing” again, whereas western Bigleaf maples can be tapped anytime between fall and spring.

“Tapping” a tree is literally inserting a spigot into a maple tree to access the sap, and having it flow using gravity into buckets or containers on the ground.

This season has been average for Arrowvale’s Bigleaf maples, says Ann Collins. “It is hard to say what kind of year this is as we are still tapping, and all is reliant on the weather. The trees are currently running but if the weather warms quickly then the trees stop running…so I would say so far it is average.”

Besides bottles of their Arrowvale maple syrup, the Collins’ maple fest will also include other maple-based treats such as popcorn, sweet treats and maple-baked beans, as well as hotdogs for lunch.

There will also be some small animals for children to visit.

Arrowvale Farm and Campground is located at 5955 Hector Road, just west of Port Alberni.

— With files from Sonja Drinkwater

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictFarming

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Bob Collins and his wife Ann have been tapping big leaf maple trees on their Arrowvale Farm property west of Port Alberni for about 10 years. Bob prepares for a small batch of west coast maple syrup for 2020. (SONJA DRINKWATER/ Alberni Valley News)

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