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Sap Turns to Maple Syrup at Muscoot

SOMERS, N.Y. – The winter of 2011-12 may have been a delightful one for people who hate the cold, but maple trees had a confusing winter, especially after last year’s constantly frigid temperatures.

Maple trees produce sap most efficiently when the late winter temperatures fluctuate between 20 and 40 degrees. Since there has not been much fluctuation this year, explained Muscoot Farm’s maple syrup guru, Rich Focht, the sap harvests are meager. “If there’s a drought, there’s also a problem,” he said.

Sunday was maple sugaring day at Muscoot. The trees have been tapped. The sap was ready for the next step, processing in an evaporator. An evaporator is a wood-fueled machine that heats the watery sap thereby reducing it to a syrupy liquid. “This year you need about 100 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup,” Focht added.

Glen Barry had come from Carmel to see the sugaring process. “I never saw a commercial machine like this one and a professional who knows how to operate it. You hear about it and you read about it but to actually see it is amazing. Maple syrup is fantastic, it's seasonal, it's natural.”

The Carruth family from Brewster also enjoyed watching the sap turn to syrup. “My kids have loved maple syrup since they were little,” said Jane Carruth. “They find it really interesting to see how you get what we eat and where our food comes from.”

Andre Betz of North Salem was observing the operation with a more professional eye. He has just bought a 200-acre farm in Vermont, with 1,400 maple trees. “They’ve all got buckets,” he said. “This brings up more questions, but now at least I have a basic idea of the process before I go out and buy a 1,000-pound evaporator. I’m hoping the maple syrup I make will pay the property taxes.”

Maple sugaring at Muscoot will conclude next Sunday, March 11. It is on from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The following Saturday and Sunday, March 17 and 18, it is time to enjoy this season’s maple syrup at a pancake breakfast with the farm staff.

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