Maple syrup is one of the most wonderful foods from our area. Don’t get me wrong, seafood is fabulous, but maple syrup is amazing. Since we can only harvest it for a few weeks a year, it makes it all the more precious. How many other foods can be kept for months, even years, without any further preservation? The culinary uses of flavor and sweetening, just serve to exalt maple syrup into the stratosphere.
I had always wondered how early man had figured out that we could not only harvest the sap, but that it could be boiled down and used. A few years ago, I went on a field trip to Moose Hill in Sharon MA. It was a freezing late February day. Bundled up like eskimos, we learned all about it.
The Native Americans told a story. It seems that one day, during the hungry time of February or March, a man came home irritated that he had found no food for his family that day. He shot an arrow into a tree and hung the empty pot from the arrow. The next morning, he found the pot full of water. He gave it to his wife to cook with and went off in search of more food. When he gave the food to his wife, she cooked it in the water he had given her. They were shocked to find that everything in the pot was sweet and delicious. It was then that they learned the sap from the tree could be boiled down into syrup.
Today, we know that sap is stored all winter in the roots of a tree. When temperatures warm up to about 40 during the day, the sap runs up into the branches of the tree. At night, the temperatures fall back below freezing and the sap runs back down into the roots. On it’s way back down, we can capture it if we tap the tree. Families and farmers have been tapping the same trees for generations, here in New England.
Closer to those of us on the South Shore is Matfield Maple Farm, in West Bridgewater Ma. They have tours on Saturdays and Sundays during March. You can learn all about sugaring, taste the final product and stock your pantry with local maple syrup. To learn more about maple syrup and, to find some recipes to use it, check out our website. Tours are something great to do with the kids, and out of town guests would be thrilled to learn about our area. You can also check out our Edible Events page for other wonderful ideas to keep learning and tasting things in our wonderful South Shore.
Contributed by Heather Smith.