Maple Sugaring

Earliest evidence of maple sugaring in the region comes from Native Americans tapping maple trees as early as 1609. A thrown tomahawk probably led to discovery of these frozen little icicle treats of sweetened sap. Though sap itself is not sweet, the boiling or freezing of it adds a sweetened taste - something you’ll probably never forget once tasted.

There’s a certain “knack” to maple sugaring. Sap won’t run if it’s too cold or too warm, so finding that delicate balance can be a bit tricky for novices. A clear Spring day, with thawing evenings is perhaps the right time to tap a hole into a sugar maple and let the sap drip slowly into a bucket. Then another and another because it takes 35-40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of syrup! Sap can run sporadically from the first spring thaw until the buds turn into leaves from mid-March until April. Light syrup is generally the highest quality while the darker syrups are used for cooking.

There are four kinds of maples throughout the region: Sugar Maple (Hard Maple), Red Maple ( Swamp Maple), and Ash Leafed Maple ( Box Elder),Silver Maple (soft maple). Properly cared for sugar maples can be tapped at 40 years of age and will yield sap for 100 years or more.

Only about $2 million in revenue is derived in Massachusetts from sugaring - but perhaps this oldtime favorite will lead local entrepreneurs to reconsider a small operation. The River Bend Farm, in cooperation with the National Heritage Corridor offer actual instructional programs each March at River Bend Farm, Oak St, Uxbridge.

Recipes, wholesalers, process instructions can all be found at http://www.massmaple.org/info.html