Each year in North America, usually beginning sometime in mid-February, winter begins to unfurl its grip and allow spring to breathe itself into the gaps. In the maple syrup-producing pockets of the continent, sunrise moves the thermostat above freezing and sunset swings the pendulum the other way towards frozen nights.
By Kendra Pierre-Louis|MOTHERBOARD
Those days are known as sugaring days—the period of four to six weeks when producers gather sap and turn it into the maple syrup that will top our pancakes, infuse our bacon, and sweeten our teas.
In recent years, maple products have undergone a mini-boom, due to our desire for alternatives to high fructose corn syrup; marketing creativity (instead of coconut water, how about some nice maple “water”); and an expanding Asian market. At the same time, however, sugaring days, and the syrup they produce, have grown more volatile due to weather variations linked to climate change.
Freakishly warm winters like this one—in March, NOAA announced that this winter was the warmest on record for the continental United States since record keeping began in in 1901—make it harder on the northeast’s maple syrup producers, or sugar makers, are they’re known colloquially. It’s a reference to the past when maple sap was boiled all the way down to sugar instead of syrup.