The transition from winter to spring is a delicious time to be in New England and Canada. March and early April make up maple sugaring season, when buckets appear on maple trees and sugar shacks transform maple sap into delectable maple syrup. It's a lot of fun for kids to see this process in action, and there are always yummy samples to try.
Maple Syrup Fun Facts
- Native Americans taught European settlers how to make maple syrup.
- Living up to its maple-leaf symbol, Canada is by far the biggest maple syrup producer in North America. Quebec is the powerhouse, with production exceeding 6.5 million gallons.
- In the United States, Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state, with more than half a million gallons each year.
- A person who makes maple syrup is called a sugarmaker.
- The building where the sap is boiled down to make syrup is called a sugarhouse.
- A sugarmaker's plantation of maple trees is called a sugarbush.
- A maple tree should be about 40 years old and at least 8 inches in diameter before it is tapped.
- Maple trees produce maple sap, which is a naturally sweet, sticky water that is collected and later boiled to become a thicker syrup.
- It takes 30 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, which in turn can also be boiled down to produce maple cream, maple sugar, and maple sugar candy.
- Maple syrup is distinguished based on color and taste into four maple syrup grades. From light to dark they are: Grade A Golden, Grade A Amber, Grade A Dark and Grade A Very Dark.
- The darker the syrup, the stronger its flavor. Syrup produced earlier in the season tends to be lighter in color and more subtle in flavor. Later in the season, syrup tends to be darker and more robust, but all maple syrup is produced by exactly the same process.
Be sure to budget for tasty souvenirs you can enjoy all year long. Many establishments also offer sleigh and wagon rides, dog sledding, and other winter fun.
Vermont is the mecca of maple syrup, producing far more maple syrup than any other US state and hosts dozens of maple festivals every spring. Use this handy map to find a sugar house where you can watch syrup being made.
While Vermont produces nearly 40 percent of U.S. maple syrup, Quebec blows that out of the water, producing over three quarters of maple syrup produced in the world.
No slouch in the maple syrup biz, Maine has produced about half a million gallons of maple syrup in past years. The family-friendly Sunday River ski resort has its own sugar house where you can watch demonstrations and sample candy and syrup.
Another huge maple syrup producers, Ontario offers myriad maple festivals in small towns throughout the province.
New Hampshire has scores of sugar houses where families can visit and watch maple syrup being made.
- New Hampshire Maple Weekend
The Berkshires in western Massachusetts are the hub of the state's maple scene. Here's where to find a classic sugar house or, even better, one with a restaurant.
- Massachusetts Maple Month
- Maple Days at Old Sturbridge Village: Watch how maple sugaring was done in the 19th century
Upstate New York is another place where maple trees thrive. Here's where to go maple sugaring in the Adirondacks.
- New York Maple Weekends
- Sugaring Demos in Cooperstown, each Sunday in March
In Connecticut, maple sugaring season typically begins in February. Here's where to find the 30 or so sugar houses open to the public.
Ohio: Maple Sugaring
Ohio is the fourth largest of the 12 states that produce maple sugar. More than 900 Ohio families produce nearly 100,000 gallons of syrup each year, but the demand far exceeds the supply. In addition, the state hosts a variety of maple sugar events around the sugaring season, which lasts from early February to mid-March.