March is the perfect time to explore the great outdoors of maple sugaring. Once you appreciate the distinctive natural flavor of real Massachusetts maple syrup, you’ll find it hard to go back to anything else. On March 4 at Zawalicks Sugar Shack in Florence, I had the privilege of ceremonially tapping a maple tree to kick off the maple season, the first sweet sign of spring, and the season’s first agricultural product. Massachusetts Maple Producer Association members, legislators and other guests attended. A proclamation from the Governor officially declared March as “Maple Month.”
When it comes to agriculture, Mother Nature is always in charge. It is especially true during the typically 4- to 6-week long sugaring season in Massachusetts. Last year was the worst season in ten years, but sugar makers are optimistic that the right combination of cold nights and warm days will be in their favor this time.
This year, the Maple producers launched a new passport program to encourage visits to Massachusetts sugarhouses. The passport can be downloaded from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association’s website.
You’ll be directed to listings of sugarhouses and get a chance to visit and learn more about the syrup making process as well as to purchase local syrup! Sugar makers will sign the official passport with their name and the date of the visit. Enter a prize drawing after visiting four or more sugarhouses by April 10.
There are more than 300 Massachusetts maple producers (most located west of Worcester), which usually produce about 50,000 – 60,000 gallons of maple syrup per year.
Growers at winter markets will also have maple syrup and products for sale - be sure to check our MassGrown & Fresher site for details.