Though maple syrup is often associated with colder months and all the delicacies they inspire, the sweet natural nectar is actually harvested each spring in North America. The trees are tapped when cold nights and warmer days signal the start of the sugaring season (usually February) and sap flows for an average of six-to-eight weeks. Once the maple trees begin to bud, the season has ended and it’s time for sugar farmers to boil down the sap (which, interestingly, is 98 percent water straight out of the tree) into the sweet, golden or amber syrup we know.
Now that this year’s harvest has ended, the Northern Territory has many different delicious ways to celebrate all things maple and learn about the vitamin- and mineral-rich natural sweetener. Below are some of our favorite activities.
Celebrate at a festival
The 50th anniversary of the Vermont Maple Festival, located outside Burlington, occurs April 22 through 24. The event features plenty of maple syrup samples and demonstrations, children’s activities, an 8.5-mile Sap Run and freshly harvested treats (like maple “creemee,” a popular soft-serve ice cream, and sugar on ice, a maple taffy presented on shaved ice).
Visit a farm
Family-owned maple operations can be found throughout New England, and many open their doors to visitors after the harvest. Take a tour at Goodrich’s Maple Farm in Cabot, Vermont, and learn about the history of maple syrup, first sourced by Native Americans.
Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, Vermont, features a trail walk and demo to break down the sugaring process, explaining how the syrup is made and then turned into a wide range of maple products.
Enjoy a streamside picnic at April’s Maple in Canaan, Vermont, with delicious offerings from its café, such as maple custard pie sundaes, maple snickerdoodle ice cream sandwiches, maple chili dogs, maple pulled pork and maple sugared donuts.
Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge (owned by the von Trapp family) makes its own maple syrup on site the old fashioned way, using buckets to collect sap and horse-drawn sleds to transport it to the sugar shack for boiling (you can get a tour of the facilities, too).
Stay at a luxury resort
High-end Vermont farm resorts, like Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Twin Farms and Four-Star Stowe Mountain Lodge, incorporate locally sourced maple syrup onto their menus this time of year. While warmer weather means less snow on the picturesque slopes, it also brings seasonal celebrations like Stowe’s Vermont Maple Sugarhouse Dinner (a 2017 date has yet to be announced), which uses fresh syrup in each course.
During harvest time, the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, offers a sweet maple experience to guests: visit The Rocks Estate and learn to identify and tap trees, collect sap and transform it into syrup, then partake in a house-drawn wagon ride around the property. Back at the resort, relax with a maple-infused facial made with a bio-maple compound derived from the tree sap, leaving skin hydrated and exfoliated.
Indulge in the sweet stuff
Stop by breweries Montreal’s Le Saint-Bock and Vermont’s 14th Star Brewing Company for craft beer made with maple syrup, or hit up small batch Vermont distilleries Dunc’s Mill for handcrafted rum and Saxtons River Distillery for liqueur made from the natural sugar source.
Swank cocktail lounge Bar Le LAB in Montreal uses maple syrup in a variety of different cocktails, showing how versatile it can be when layered with unexpected spirits and flavors.
For eats, head to world-renowned chef Martin Picard’s seasonal Sugar Shack restaurant, now open just outside of Montreal in Mirabel. This year he’s featuring a food truck in the parking lot, serving maple-inspired dishes for breakfast and lunch through early May. Even when the Sugar Shack closes for the season, visitors can bask in his inventive use of maple all year round at Au Pied de Cochon, where he creates treats like maple cotton candy, maple foie gras bites, maple pig’s head, maple rum cake, chocolate-covered marshmallow maple pops and more.