Winter gathering in the Minnesota sugarbush.

Honoring Place

Honoring our legacy in rural Minnesota life means healthy eating—those precious food traditions passed down through loving effort to tap the maple trees with two feet of snow in the Minnesota wood and then inviting friends and relations to spend an Easter Sunday afternoon in the woods, drawing freshly boiled maple syrup from a hundred year old copper kettle and slathering it on Dr. Rod’s pretty good buttermilk cakes.

Cooking pancakes in a Minnesota winter woods.

Or, to keep and work with bees, planting five acres of native pollinators on land without a history of industrial farming so our bees don’t have to go far to find water and nectar that is free of pesticides, herbicides or a host of other chemicals we don’t need. Preserving food is a holy rite of gathering the generational wisdom of gardening, harvesting, drying, canning, freezing or using a cool storage area so the food we eat is the food our hearts and hands have nurtured.

Beekeeper preparing to insert another box into the beehive.

Cooking maple syrup with downed wood rather than using fossil fuels not only honors locality but adds a special natural wood smoke flavor to the syrup. Maple syrup has more than 67 different plant compounds, or polyphenols, nine of which are unique to pure maple syrup. Some are naturally formed when the sap is boiled outdoors to produce maple syrup. The Spring ritual has so many other benefits as well—watching the first owls, crows, and woodducks return and begin to nest; discovering the first mushrooms springing up just under the snow melt, or gathering wild leeks to make the best soup in the world! Family activities with and around food products brings our families constantly outdoors and in touch with the smorgasbord of nature our glaciated hills and riparian woodland is cherished for.

Woodfired stove used to cook down maple sap into maple syrup.

I believe the complex variety of our wetlands, oak/maple/basswood forests, rolling hills and four true seasons, as well as Kristin’s world-traveled experiences, allows her to create recipes with a subtlety of taste and staged release of flavors that make our chocolate bars special—like my long time favorite the Scorpion Pepper bar!

Our lived traditions do not just sweeten our lives on occasion, but become the rhythm and soul of our seasons, bringing us to recreate tastes out in and out of the garden, the maple woods and the events held at Star Isle or near Minnesota’s over 14,000 lakes. 

The Mohagen family tapping maple trees for syrup production.

~Rod Spidahl

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