Sweet weekend ahead for maple sugarers

  • Linda Gould bottles maple syrup at Gould’s Sugar House Restaurant in Shelburne on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ    

  • Gould’s Sugar House  in Shelburne boils down the first batch of maple sap this year on Thursday.   STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ   

  • The Davenport Maple Farm Restaurant in the Patten section of Shelburne is one of many Franklin County sugar houses that will take part in Maple Weekend. File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/15/2019 6:00:25 PM

Winton Pitcoff of Massachusetts Maple Producers Association says the sap is running and sugarers are ready to celebrate Maple Weekend.

Pitcoff said sugar houses throughout the county will be open Saturday and Sunday selling their products in their restaurants, stores and farm stands.

“We’ve done this for six years,” he said. “There will be lots of activities for kids, promotions, demonstrations, tours and more.”

Pitcoff said the weekend is an opportunity for sugarers to present their products — and how they make them.

“This is the only part of the world where maple sugar is made — northeastern United States and southeastern Canada,” Pitcoff said. “It’s an agricultural awakening. It’s one of the agricultural businesses that keep some farms going, when there’s not a lot of growing happening, yet. They capitalize on this time.”

Pitcoff said several sugarers will participate this weekend. They are: Boyden Brothers Maple on Route 116 in Conway; Brookledge Sugarhouse, 158 Haydenville Road, Whately; Hager Bros. Maple Farm, 1232 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne; Graves Sugarhouse, 80 Wilson Graves Road, Shelburne; Gould’s Sugarhouse, 570 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne; Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm, 21 Rowe Road, Charlemont; Davenport Maple Farm, 111 Tower Road, Shelburne; Williams Farm Sugarhouse, 491 Greenfield Road, Deerfield.

He said sugarers won’t know whether the year was good or bad until May, when the season is over.

Making maple syrup

Pitcoff said to extract sap from a sugar maple tree requires warm days and cold nights, which is what the area is experiencing right now. Sugaring season lasts about six weeks, from late January/early February to the end of April.

“There’s really no normal in this area anymore, though,” he said. “Ideal for sugaring are days that are 40 degrees and nights that are 25 degrees. A gradual warmup between now and the end of April would be really nice for sugaring.”

According to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, one can tell it’s time to tap when extreme temperatures end, streams start flowing and one can hear crows. 

What’s in maple sugar?

The association says sap is a 100-percent natural, clear, sterile liquid containing sugars, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. It is 66.5 percent solids and 33.5 percent water.

Syrup is the concentrated light, sweet sap of the sugar maple tree. Beginning in late January to early February, sugarers prepare the harvest by using either buckets or a tubing system to collect the sap, which is then boiled, evaporated and bottled. There are different types of syrup. 

Golden is light with a delicate, mild flavor, while amber is full-bodied with a stronger flavor. Dark has a robust flavor and very dark is best for cooking. Lighter sap runs early in the season and darker tends to run later, but sugarers don’t know what they’re going to get until it happens. Maple production seasons runs six weeks, but can run as little as three or four weeks. Pitcoff said once trees start to bud, the season is over.

For more information about maple products or Maple Weekend events, visit: www.massmaple.org

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