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They were born to tap

Maple Syrup Weekend

Maple sugar producers across the region agree: This has been one of the slowest seasons on record, for sap that is. However, they hope this weekend will be a “good run.”

For the 19th Annual N.H. Maple Weekend, more than 100 syrup producers across the state plan to open their sugar shacks to the public and invite guests to tap, boil, and taste.

Robyn Pearl, publicist for the N.H. Maple Producers Association, Inc., suggests the weekend is a wonderful time to learn about maple syrup. Since the season is short, only three-to-seven weeks long, this weekend is “the perfect time to get out and enjoy the season while it’s still here,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, local producers will offer a variety of activities and tasty treats. Activities include hayrides and sap gathering tours for children; food options include a plethora of maple-inspired delicacies: maple ice-cream, fried dough dipped in maple syrup, pancakes with maple syrup, maple cotton candy, maple muffins, maple hot-dogs, maple nuts, maple candy and maple syrup over snow.

Each year, New Hampshire produces approximately 100,000 gallons of syrup, making it the third largest syrup producer in New England, Pearl said. Most maple syrup producers in New Hampshire are backyard hobbyists who sell syrup on the side, she said.

Ruben Somero, 18, of New Ipswich is one of these producers. Somero co-owns Somero Maple Farm with his brother, Peter Somero, 20. They started making syrup on a very small scale in 2008. This year, Somero said they have tapped 800 trees and hope to produce more than 130 gallons of syrup. Meeting new people and teaching them about maple syrup production is one of Ruben Somero’s favorite parts of the season. “There are a lot of trees out there that can be tapped,” he said.

Ben Fisk, at Ben’s Sugar Shack in Temple, has a larger operation. He taps about 20,000 trees and produces 8,000 gallons of syrup a year. Fisk calls syrup a “super food.” Maple Syrup isn’t just for pancakes. Instead, Fisk encourages people to replace processed cane sugar with syrup for any recipe. “I use about a gallon of syrup a month, on baked beans or glazed ham,” he said.

Charles Levesque and his son, Galen Kilbride, own and operate Old Pound Road Sugar House in Antrim. They tap 500 to 600 trees every year and produce 50 to 75 gallons of syrup. Levesque said that the weather this winter — a combination of freezing nights, chilly winds and slowly warming days — have made this the worst season he has seen in 30 years. Ideal temperatures for sap collection are cool nights, around 25 degrees, and daytime highs of 35 to 40 degrees, he said. This change is what causes sap to run, said Levesque. Another problem, he noted is that a tree will heal itself within six weeks of tapping. Most syrup producers tap, or drill holes, in mid-February, but because of the weather, holes are starting to close before sap can be collected.

Dylan Pierpont and Brooks Johnson co-lead maple sugar production at the Dublin School, which has been making syrup since it opened in 1935. Last year, students produced 75 gallons. Pierpont said he believes it is important to continue the school’s tradition, and to show students from across the country and the world where and how food is produced.

For more information on the Maple Weekend activities and locations, go to www.nhmapleproducers.com

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