An iconic symbol of Western New York’s autumn, the majestic Sugar Maple tree produces some of the most brilliant reds, golds and oranges as autumn fades to winter. Then, that same tree yields some of the best maple syrup around. In WNY and throughout the state, there are more tappable maples trees than in any other state in America.
With all those sugar maples, it’s nearly impossible to resist Maple Weekend! The annual free event takes place March 19-20 and April 2-3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at maple producers across the state.
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 40 gallons of the sap produces a gallon of maple syrup.
New York Maple Producers manufactured 601,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2015, one of the highest production rates ever, up from 546,000 gallons in 2014.
“During Maple Weekend, WNY families can learn all about the production of maple syrup and other related products. A list of participating sugarhouses and maps can be found online at www.mapleweekend.com. You can learn about tree tapping and boiling, see displays, and of course, have a chance to taste some syrup,” says Bridget Smith of Smith’s Maple Farm in Hamburg. Smith is the Western New York coordinator of Maple Weekend.
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.
One popular route in WNY stretches from Niagara County down through Cattaraugus County. Visitors can head from Wolf Maple of Middleport to Sweet Dream Maple Farm of Corfu to Merle Maple Farm of Attica to Arcade Center Farm Pancake House to Wright Farms of Farmersville, and top things off with pancakes and more at Sprague’s Maple Farms of Portville.
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. The unseasonably warm December and January’s warmer than usual temperatures may lead to a lower yield than 2015. But the colder temps this February could help.
“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 2.3 million taps producing 601,000 gallons of syrup and accounting for 19 percent of the syrup in the U.S. in 2015.