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Cliff Calderwood is a travel writer living in rural Massachusetts. He writes extensively about New England where he has lived for the last 31 years with his family and dogs, and a bunch of animals in the woods that have a lot more right to live there than he does - but he watches out for them.

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When the Sap Starts Running in New England…

Maple Buckets ImageIt’s that time of year again when most of us have had enough of cold and snow and just want the blossoms and warmer temperatures to come. Well, it is on the way, and one of the first signs is the when the maple sap starts to run.

Over the years this blog has published a number of articles about maple sugaring during the maple harvesting season. In New England this can start in late February, ramp up in March, and be all over come early April.

Yes, the season is short for harvesting maple sap and turning it into the rich golden delicacy we call Maple Syrup, and other sweet products. It starts in Connecticut as the days begin to warm but the nights still freeze. It’s this combination of temperature that starts the sap flowing on the sugar maple trees.

Too warm during the day or not cold enough overnight and the whole process shuts down and the season cut short. It only lasts about six weeks anyway so people who make their income from this harvest work long days and nights during the harvesting season.

After the air warms in Connecticut it moves northward through tree country to Massachusetts and then into the high volume producers of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The tapping of the sap and turning into syrup was taught by the native Indians to the colonial settlers and the tradition has continued using the same tools. A hole is drilled in the trunk and a tap is fitted in the hole leading into a bucket. Some larger more sophisticated maple farms run tubes from the tree tap into a collecting tank from many trees. But in case you think there is a danger of over farming don’t worry. The extraction of sap is slow and only a fraction of the tree’s sap is redirected to the bucket or tank.

Different grades and color reflect the time of the season the sap was harvested and boiled down to syrup. Early season is Grade A and light Amber, and by the end the syrup produced is Grade B and Dark Amber.

I took a skiing vacation back in March 2006 with one of my sons and we visited a number of the Vermont sugarhouses to see the maple being made and this started my love affair with the process and the product. It was here we tasted our first “sugar on snow.” The sugar shacks can be seen, or smelt, from miles away, with the smoke rising and the sweet scent of the sap boiling in the air.

Here is a list of resources you can find at this and other blogs and websites to help with more information about this traditional and planning a trip to see it for yourself in any of the states producing maple products.

The article I wrote after my trip to Vermont for the 2006 season here >>>

47th Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans, Vermont here >>>

All about Connecticut’s Maple Season here >>>

All about Maine’s Maple Season and Festivals here >>>

All about Massachusetts Season and Festivals here >>>

All about New Hampshire’s Maple Season and Festivals here >>>

Official site of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association here >>>

New England Maple Syrup Resource List – includes recipe books here >>>

Jessica Layne’s guest post on Maple Syrup in New England here >>>

Another New England post by our staff is being prepared right now so be sure to visit again or just subscribe to our RSS Feed here and get notified automatically of events and news.

Cliff Calderwood
New England Online Magazine

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