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Once upon a time, maple in L'Érable

Advantage over maple syrup production during the time of the First Nations, the traditional sugar shack, other aspects of the maple industry (such as cabinetry), its industrialization, and of course, the tourism aspect of the region of L'Érable!


Maple during the time of the Abenakis The territory of Centre-du-Québec, of which the MRC de L'Érable is a part, was once occupied by the Abenakis (also known as Wobanakis or Wabanakis) of the Algonquin nation, with the first settlers only arriving in the region from the 19th century onwards. The ancestral territory of the Abenaki nation extended from Rivière-du-Loup to the Richelieu River, from east to west, and from the St. Lawrence River to Boston, from north to south. From the 16th century onwards, the Abenakis were semi-sedentary, so they practiced hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture.


The Abenakis, like other Algonquin and Iroquois tribes, knew about maple water. It was the Indigenous people who showed the first European settlers the process of harvesting maple water, with modern-day maple syrup production only beginning in 1680. Among the Abenaki nation, maple water harvesting was done in the spring, upon the return from winter hunting. Each family took care of a certain number of trees.


They used their tomahawks to make a V-shaped incision in the trees and then inserted a concave piece of bark to let the sap flow into bark buckets. The sugaring-off season was a period of work and entertainment. Maple water was a highly appreciated food. As a refreshing drink, transformed into sugar, it could also enhance food and make medicine taste less unpleasant!


The sugar shack as we know it Modern-day Quebec maple syrup production only began in 1680. The first settlers introduced wooden buckets and iron kettles, which allowed for high-temperature evaporation of maple water. The first sugar loaves were sent to France in 1691. "Making syrup" then spread throughout New France. Before 1900, there were few festivities surrounding the sugaring-off season.


The rudimentary shelter of the first farms left little room for gatherings. Urbanization and the arrival of sugar shacks in the first half of the 20th century allowed families to gather and reconnect with nature in the spring. The traditional sugar shack meal today When we think of the sugaring-off season, we easily imagine the man in plaid shirt who collects maple water buckets while riding a horse. However, maple water harvesting and processing are now done through industrial processes rather than artisanal ones. Maple syrup now stands as a recognized and appreciated commercial product worldwide.


Nonetheless, traditions remain present, and sugar shack meals are part of the customary events still very popular from the arrival of spring in the L'Érable region. Sugar parties and family gatherings then follow one another. Each sugar shack receives family and friends for a traditional "sugar shack meal" and to taste the famous tire sur la neige (maple taffy on snow).


The maple industry in L'Érable

For some, many other names could evoke the assets of our territory, such as cranberries, metal, or recovery. However, maple syrup production remains an important sector of activity in the region. The MRC de L'Érable is recognized for its maple forests and for its many businesses that manage, transform, and market this natural resource in various ways. When we talk about maple, we must also talk about forestry, as maple is primarily a tree. In addition to the transformation of maple products, we find on the territory companies working in the fields of wood machining and cabinetmaking. Thus, the economic benefits attributable to maple production are significant.

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