Maple Weekend 2018: The sweet tradition continues

Maple syrup production has become a powerhouse crop for New York State farmers. In the last decade the production of maple syrup has tripled, while the crop value has quadrupled.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York Maple Producers manufactured 760,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2017, the highest production rate ever. It’s an increase of 7.5 percent from the previous year. The 2016 crop in New York was valued at $31.3 million with an estimated economic impact of almost $141 million. The value for 2017’s crop will be released this June.

The best news is there’s plenty of room to expand that production because the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data shows that more tappable maple trees are in New York than in any other state in America.

With all those sugar maples, it’s nearly impossible to resist Maple Weekend! The 22nd annual event takes place March 17-18 and 24-25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at maple producers across the state. The family friendly event is free to the public.

“Maple Weekend is the perfect family event,” says Greg Zimpfer of Zimpfer Maple in Attica and co-founder of Maple Weekend. “You can learn about tree tapping and boiling, see displays, and best of all taste some of America’s greatest syrup.”

Find a list of participating sugarhouses and maps at www.mapleweeekend.com.

Syrup is produced as the sugar maple holds starches in storage during the winter, which change to sugars as spring approaches. These sugars are released into the tree sap. When a tree is tapped, a clear liquid runs out. When that liquid is boiled down, approximately 44 gallons of the sap produces a gallon of maple syrup.

Techniques vary from producer to producer; some use state-of-the art methods while others are traditionalists. Many maple producers also offer additional activities including horse and wagon rides, snowshoeing, guided walks in the woods and kids’ corners. That’s why it’s great fun visiting several different maple producers.

Across WNY, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts will take place over the two weekends. A list of participating sites is available at www.mapleweekend.com.

And consider this — there’s something more to the taste of sweet, delicious maple syrup — it might just keep you healthy! Recent research has uncovered some significant health benefits.

University of Rhode Island researchers found 20 compounds in maple syrup that possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.

Other established health benefits of pure maple syrup include the calcium and potassium content – a quarter-cup of maple syrup has more calcium than the same amount of milk and more potassium than a banana.

This winter, while we were enjoying Mother Nature’s unusually warm temperatures, WNY’s maple producers were hoping for more of a chill. “Sugar house activities continue no matter what the weather, and this year we will produce some very tasty syrup,” notes Smith.

New York is the second-largest maple producing state in the U.S., with 2.65 million taps, producing 760,000 gallons of syrup and accounting for 18 percent of the syrup in the U.S. in 2017.

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