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Syrup season comes to an abrupt end

Posted on March 26, 2012

Mike RaykoviczAnother season has come to a close here in New York but few are likely to know it. The mild winter weather has been heralded by most of us as a godsend and wildlife certainly has fared better without having to deal with deep snow and harsh winter weather conditions, but cold weather isn’t all bad.

Just after St. Patrick’s Day, I took a ride through the Pennsylvania Game Lands near my home and noticed on the private land bordering this public property, the ubiquitous plastic piping that threaded its way through a large sugar bush and used to gather maple sap was now lying unused. This is a commercial operation and the farmer running it usually produces several hundred gallons of syrup each spring. Because of the warm winter weather and the almost summer-like spring conditions we're currently experiencing, the maple syrup season has come to an end for him and most other producers.

In most years, maple syrup producers would still be tapping trees and gathering sap, but because of the current warm weather, sap gathering has been cut short by about two weeks. Normally, good sap begins to flow when relatively warm winter days are accompanied by cold nights, but this spring the days and nights have varied by only a few degrees. As a result, unless trees were tapped early, it’s likely the amount of sap collected – and thus the overall supply of syrup made – will be down somewhat over what was produced last year.

I once watched a friend gather the sap from the trees he tapped on his property and then stood by as he boiled the sap to make syrup. It took 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, he told me. To boil the sap he used oak, ash and beech wood he cut the previous summer. It was hard work and he was there for hours, but it was something he clearly enjoyed. After spending a few hours watching my friend boil sap and waiting for it to became maple syrup, I tried to think what I would charge for a pint of the finished amber liquid if I were doing it. I think the price was just short of a million dollars.

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