New England Maple Excursions On Tap
Posted on February 19, 2016
Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
Wicked cold temperatures finally arrived throughout New England this month but not before 2016 brought near record wintertime warmth, and caused maple sap to start flowing the first part of January in parts of Connecticut. The anticipated result is a banner year for maple production in the Nutmeg State where more than thirty sugarhouses are operated.
In Connecticut, the Hebron Maple Festival is a growing event slated for March 19-20. There will be sugarhouse tours, live music, face painting, demonstrations and a quilt show. Up in Windsor, the 27th Annual Pancake Breakfast will be hosted by the Friends of Northwest Park in March – for details call 860-285-1886. At Lyman High School in Lebanon a Maple 101 Course is offered at no fee, but class size is limited to twenty so it might be wise to set one’s sights on 2017.
DiscoverNewEngland.com describes the New England maple season as the region’s “sweetest and shortest” season, typically spanning a matter of mere weeks from the end of February which is fast upon us, to late March/early April. Cold nights and warm days conspire to prompt maple trees to spill out the sweet nectar. Traveling the New England countryside during this time, it is common to see what looks like smoke rising from weathered wooden shacks. Delightful aromas reveal the truth. It’s steam floating into the air from those “sugar shacks” due to the maple sap boiling-off process.
Scheduled also for March 19-20 is the 20th Annual New Hampshire Maple Weekend. Last year the Granite State produced 124,000 gallons of maple syrup. To put the challenge of sap collection into perspective, 40 gallons of sap are required to yield just one gallon of syrup. For amateur producers that can be as earthy as hiking the woods to tap maple trees then hand collect buckets of the sweet stuff. For those who make a living from maple sugaring, it usually involves miles of tubing strung from maple trees to sugarhouses.
Once the flow of sap begins sugarmeisters can rarely stray far from the sap evaporators that eat cords of wood to create pure, flavorful, maple treats. By the way, news from the health field now ranks maple among nature’s bounty with high levels of antioxidants known to boost the immune system, according to DailyMail.com. The benefits may include help in the management of Type-2 diabetes, as well as, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Massachusetts is celebrating Maple Month straight through March and in Rhode Island maple events are slated at various farms.
Vermont holds the distinction of being New England’s top maple maker, producing 1.3 million gallons in 2015, or “forty percent” of the maple syrup consumed in the United States, notes DiscoverNewEngland.com. The Green Mountain State will host Maple Open House Weekend featuring some 80 farms, and the Vermont Maple Festival will be held April 22, 23 & 24.
Last but not least, mark the fourth Sunday in March -March 22- on the calendar for Maine Maple Sunday. Enjoy free maple tasting.
For those interested in trying their hand at becoming a sugarmeister, experts say there are five critical steps:
- Prepare for the season – identify the maple trees to be tapped
- Determine when to tap
- Collect the sap
- Filter for grade & packaging
New England is breathtaking year round, but surely the uniqueness of maple season is not to be missed.
Visit http://www.discovernewengland.org/things-do/new-englands-maple-sugaring-season for more information.
(Writer’s note: Photos taken at Comte Family Farm in Nottingham, New Hampshire.)