Maple Sugar | New Hampshire Public Radio

Maple Sugar

photo of woman dwarfed by huge tree
Todd Bookman/NHPR

When Janet Buxton, her parents and her 11 siblings moved into a Kensington farmhouse in 1954, the sugar maple out front was already massive.

Sixty-seven years later, it’s an institution, a national record-holder, and, as of Monday, now becoming a leafy memory.

“I call her the Old Lady,” said Buxton.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

This weekend is usually a time when New Hampshire sugar houses are open to the public for events and tastings. But this year, the 25th Annual Maple Weekend is canceled over coronavirus concerns.

And that's been a big blow to local producers.

Sue Folsom, owner of Folsom’s Sugar House in Chester, said the annual event is a huge revenue generator for both big and small maple makers.

"Oh, it is enormously important to the maple producers in this state," Folsom said. "For a lot of producers, it is the major source of income for their maple crop every year."

The Lure & Mythology of Maple Syrup in N.H.

Mar 6, 2020
UNH Cooperative Extension/Steve Roberge

We talk with maple sugarers about the lure and mythology of "winter's sweet farewell." Maple sugar season traditionally begins on Town Meeting Day in early March in New Hampshire. With warming winters and unpredictable weather swings, however, large syrup producers depend on modern technology, like vacuum pumps and reverse osmosis, to start tapping and boiling whenever the sap runs, even as early as December. But New Hampshire's sugarbushes are still full of family-run sugar shacks, relying on gravity-fed taps and burning wood to boil the sap. 

Air date: Monday, March 9, 2020

Today marks the beginning of March. So NH Magazine's managing editor Erica Thoits joined Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley to talk about what's going on in the Granite State this month.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Climate change is leaving a mark on one of New Hampshire's springtime rituals: maple sugaring.

Scientists and farmers dug into the latest research over pancakes in Plymouth on Tuesday.

Mount Washington Observatory research director Eric Kelsey says maple trees face a lot of stresses: abnormal storms, droughts, excess road salt, acid rain and new pests.

"And that might explain the general 25 percent decrease in sap-sugar content we've seen over the last 40 to 50 years,” Kelsey says.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

In Morning Edition’s new weekly series, Radio Field Trips, we’re traveling across the state to bring listeners stories of New Hampshire life and culture.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley visited his friend  Dave Anderson at his sugar shack in the rural woods of South Sutton. (Click through the gallery above to see photos from their field trip.)

If Dave's voice sounds familiar, its because he tells some of the stories you hear on NHPR's Something Wild. He also has a 40-acre tree farm where he enjoys his hobby of turning sap into maple syrup.

Governor Chris Sununu performed what is a ritual for New Hampshire governors: a tree tapping ceremony marking the official kick off of maple sugar season.  But the governor also blended some political talk with the syrup. 

Derek Edry / NHPR

It’s a brisk March morning at Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire.

More than a hundred people from across New England and dozens of draft horses gather outside for the farm’s 17th annual sap gathering contest. Teams consist of two draft horses hitched to a sap sled, a driver, and two sap runners. Stonewall Farm is one of more than a hundred maple syrup producers celebrating New Hampshire Maple Weekend, though it’s the only one holding a contest of this kind.

At the starting line, David Heisler’s team is among the first to compete.

Steve Richardson via Flickr CC

Looking for something  Grade A to do this weekend? After an especially long winter, New Hampshire residents can finally taste the sweet stuff that's become an annual rite of spring: local maple syrup produced in a roadside shack.

N.H. Sugar Shacks Open For Maple Weekend

Mar 23, 2014
Amanda Loder / NHPR

Dozens of sugar shacks across New Hampshire are opening up to visitors for Maple Weekend.  A typical operation is Courser Farm’s Sugar King’s shack in Warner.  The building is dominated by a huge wood-powered syrup boiler.  Visitors pack in almost shoulder-to-shoulder sampling cups of syrup and homemade donuts.  Penny Courser is one of several family members who pitch in for the weekend.  She says they expect to see anywhere from 200 to 500 people for the weekend.

Syrup Taste Test With Douglas Whynott: VIDEO

Mar 18, 2014
Sarah Thomas / NHPR

We asked Douglas Whynott to stay a few extra minutes for a sticky challenge: a blind maple syrup taste-test. The aim was to test his ability to distinguish between the various grades of maple syrup.  We sat down with five cups paper cups - three were filled with varieties of grade “A” amber – light, medium, and dark.  There was also a cup with grade “B” syrup, which has a stronger maple flavor and has traditionally been used for cooking, and of course the ringer – a brand-name artificial syrup. And because you can tell a lot by the color of syrup, both Douglas and I donned blindfolds for the occasion – well, not blindfolds exactly.  Our producers tied one of my scarves around Doug’s head, and I wore my winter hat over my eyes, to prevent any accidental or intentional cheating. For good measure, we videotaped the taste test, so you can see for yourselves, there was NO cheating.