Saturday, March 21, 2009
Spring in New England
Come Spring Equinox, it's still cold in northern New England; snowy even. We are still freezing our you-know-whats off up here while much of the rest of the country is enjoying new growth on the trees, rising tendrils of green from the dirt, flowering trees and budding plans in profusion in the South & West. This is the most perfect time of year in the desert. The colors turn purple and pink and the cacti flower and desert flowers spring up for an all too brief time.
But up here, it's cold. One sign of Spring in New England is maple sugaring. According to the New Hampshire Maple Producer's Assn., it begins in late February when sugarers tap the trees as they begin to thaw from the cold Winter. As the sap thaws, it runs and tapped trees deposit the dripping sap into buckets. This process lasts approximately 4-6 weeks. The collected sap is then boiled down to a thickened substance we eventually consume as maple syrup. It's not a lot more complicated than that. This is a time honored method and the result: 90,000 gallons of maple syrup from New Hampshire alone!
My father raised my brother and me on maple syrup. He made pancakes every Sunday and served them with real maple syrup. I felt sorry for my friends who had to eat the fake stuff: Aunt Jemima & Mrs. Butterworth. There was no comparison. One of his favorite desserts was vanilla ice cream with maple syrup topping. I still love that. It's such a treat!
For more information about maple sugaring, visit the NH Maple Producers site link above or the New England Maple Museum which has photos & slide shows of current and historical sugaring as well as in depth information on the history of maple sugaring.