Wild leeks, also called ramps, just coming up at the base of a maple tree. When the ramps come, the sugaring season goes.
We’re calling it: 2021 is the year of the DIY maple syrup maker! From Missouri to Prince Edward Island, from Minnesota (also here and here) to Connecticut, from Ontario (and here) and Quebec to North Dakota, and from Maine to to Indiana and beyond, regular people like us made maple syrup and made the news doing it. Even the New York Times covered sugaring this year!
(Unfortunately, when a hobby booms, so do it’s mishaps. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but we’re one swamp and one home down after backyard sugaring fires got out of control. Safety first, fellow hobby sugar makers!)
DIY maple sugar makers in all stages of life made the news in 2021. From elementary school children in Minnesota to senior citizens in Vermont, hobby maple hath no age. In New York, public school children compete in a statewide contest for best syrup! And at the Pulaski Academy, you can join the Sapper’s Society. A technical school in Maine, and a university in New Jersey? Also doing the DIY maple thing.
For those who missed the season, virtual maple learning for school children is available courtesy of Ontario’s South Nation Conservation. (Also: you can read them this new picture book!) You never know, maybe some of those young’uns will grow up to do maple research at Cornell (currently working with local producers to create new products in the maple industry), University of Washington (currently studying the viability of commercial big-leaf maple syrup production on the west coast), University of Vermont (currently honing quality control, quality control and quality control), or Stockton University (currently studying the viability of commercial red maple syrup production in New Jersey).
Here in the north country it was a low production year for pros and amateurs alike. The season started slow, and then was too warm to fast for big yields. But, those in the know believe that the future of maple still looks awfully bright. And, refreshingly, knowledge and respect for the past – the history and origins of maple – is turning up in the news in 2021. Here’s a story about a man who provides maple syrup to the local Akwesasne community, and here’s some coverage of an Ojibwe language immersion charter school initiative, where maple will be on the curriculum! Perhaps it was the right year for the largest maple tree in the nation, located in New Hampshire and believed to have been planted during the Revolutionary War, to meet its maker.
As for maple fairs and celebrations, some are off, some are on, and some are virtual. But innovation is here to stay thanks to the “I could figure that out” attitude exemplified by this Wisconsin producer. This New Jersey farm made maple several ways for their visitors this year, while Quebec producers are selling sugaring-off meal boxes online, since they can’t safely welcome customers to enjoy the traditional fare in house. And this Pennsylvania producer scored beautifully epic coverage this year (and here). Those pictures!
No, we will not forget the food! For new ways to purchase the taste of maple, the market provides: vegan maple ice cream, and “The Maine Dish,” a beer brewed with maple syrup, balsam fir tips and live lobsters. No joke. For homemade fare, see: Maple Chipotle Barbequed Pork. Hot Maple Crackling Chicken Thighs. Maple Ham and Cheese Waffles. Maple Pecan Pie. Maple Scotch Cocktail. May your days be long enough and your appetite large enough to enjoy it all. (Not an Irish blessing. But should be!)