Although March has hit full stride, our record snowfall and continued cold temperatures are hiding the fact that spring is right around the corner. Spring is inevitable, and this year spring will be delicious for all of us New Englanders. “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome,” said Anne Bradstreet. If you look carefully, there actually ARE signs of spring. Drive around New Hampshire – the beautiful sight of smoke rising from sugar houses tucked deep into the woods is a tried and true signal of spring’s arrival.
- So how does tree tapping work anyway?
When the frozen sap in the Sugar Maple begins to thaw, it builds pressure within the tree that will flow to any opening on the tree. Maple producers drill a small hole in the trunk and insert a spout, to which they attach a bucket to collect the sap. Vast amounts of sap are collected and brought to the sugar house. It is boiled in an evaporator, over a hot fire. As water evaporates from the maple sap, it becomes more concentrated, and sweeter, until it eventually becomes syrup. Would you believe that it takes almost 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!
- A Native American Tradition
Although the process today might seem rustic, it was once even more so. Native Americans tapped trees with a simple wooden wedge called a tongue. To reduce the sap, they used a hollow wooden log as a vessel for the sap, and reduced it by dropping flaming hot rocks from a fire directly into the sap. The result was the same, nutrient rich syrup we love today.
- Unique Health Benefits of Maple Syrup
You read that right – health benefits! Maple Syrup delivers more nutrition than all other common sweeteners and is 100% natural and unrefined. It’s a valuable source of mineral nutrients and vitamins, such as zinc, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and riboflavin, and has one of the lowest calorie levels of sweeteners. It contains beneficial phenolic compounds commonly found in plants, berries, tea, red wine, and flax seeds that may prevent cancer. Want to learn more? Visit www.internationalmaplesyrupinstitute.com.
Simple, Delicious Recipe
So many of us think as syrup as a condiment to be poured over pancakes or waffles. Yet it also makes a wonderful ingredient for dishes such as mashed sweet potatoes. Swing by the Farm to get some of NH’s finest syrup from our Kensington neighbor, George Gavutis of Hemlock Hollow Farm.
4 – 5 medium sized sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
- Set oven to 375F. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes and roast in the oven for one hour. (You might want to set sweet potatoes on a piece of foil, in case they burst and drip).
- In a medium sauce pan, heat the butter and syrup over low heat.
- When sweet potatoes are cooked, set on a cutting board and carefully slice in half. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh out of each half and add to butter and syrup. Continue with the rest of the potatoes.
- Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, and add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: this will give a rustic texture. If a finer puree is desired, use a stick blender or food processor.)