The sign at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock. Below, mini corn muffins and maple butter, and the entrance to the Calf-A.
HANCOCK, Mass. — Have you been out the the sugar bush yet? That’s the Canadian term for a maple farm.
At the rate the weather’s been going you’ve got about a week left to get out and see one in full swing.
That’s because making syrup requires specific conditions that are closely tied to weather patterns in the Northeast.
In order for the sap to run, daytime temperatures need to be above 40 degrees and at night the mercury needs to dip to freezing or below. You may have noticed, in the last few days we’ve had no trouble hitting the 40-degree mark but that freezing level seems to be fading pretty fast.
Once the trees begin to bud, the sap may still run but it becomes bitter and unfit for syrup.
If you want to get out to the bush, have some pancakes and watch the syrup being made, you’d better move fast. Our region has a few choices of farms offering maple breakfasts (or “maple meals”) and of course, if you’re feeling flush, there’s the Berkshire Grown Maple Dinner coming up on March 26 at the Red Lion Inn. Tickets range from $65 to over $100 per person. Contact Berkshire Grown for details.
For the basic maple breakfast here are a few choices:
Mill Brook Sugarhouse is located in Lenox, call 413-298-3473, for information.
Ioka Valley Farm serves “maple meals” until 3:30 in the afternoon. Perfect if you like to sleep late and take your time on weekends. Their corn muffins and maple butter are super-yummy. They have a website, too: www.iokavalleyfarm.com..
South Face Farm is open until 3:00 until Easter Sunday. Their webpage is here. They serve whole wheat pancakes as well as the usual white flour, making South Face a good choice for the health conscious among us.
You can’t have breakfast at Blue Heron Farm but there’s probably somewhere near Charlemont that will serve you a pretty dandy breakfast and Blue Heron makes certified organic maple slurple, (syrup) that’s a steal at $52 a gallon (a gallon contains 11 pounds of syrup — check your local market and do the math, best I’ve seen is around $7 a pound.) Their website is here.
In Shelburne there’s Gould’s, open until 2 p.m. and right on the Mohawk Trail (they have a website but it’s not terribly helpful; you’re better off calling 413-625-6170). And also in Shelburne there’s Hager’s, also on the Mohawk Trail and while I’ve never been, their menu looks like a real bargain, you can see it here.
Hager’s thinks like real farmers, so if you want breakfast, you’ll have to get there before 11 a.m.
I can’t vouch for Davenport Farm but they’ve been tapping trees for 99 years so they must be doing something right. They serve breakfast but don’t have a website: call 413) 625-2866. They’re not on the Trail either, you’ll find them at 111 Tower Road, Shelburne.
So there’s a sample of what’s on offer. A trip to a maple farm is a great way to get up close and personal with springtime but it doesn’t last long. Get ‘em while they’re running.
Hoses full of sap run straight into the sugar shack at Ioka Farm. Right, enjoying a maple meal; the kettle inside the shack.
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