March 20, 2012

Maple madness

The wildly popular, ever-growing Maine Maple Sunday offers a sweet escape next week.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Mark Cooper checks the density of his maple syrup with a hydrometer while boiling sap at his sugar house in Windham earlier this month.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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FOR A COMPLETE LIST of sugar houses open around the state, with detailed descriptions on everything they offer, go to the Maine Maple Producers website:

THE STATE'S Get Real, Get Maine website also provides a comprehensive listing of sugarhouses, including those who are not members of the Maine Maple Producers.

So far, the study has found that there are about 1.5 million maple taps around the state, with a potential for some 41 million taps. About 5 million of those would be a half-mile or less from an existing road.

Black says the study's findings so far include an estimate for the creation of 547 maple-related jobs for six months of the year in Somerset County (north of Skowhegan), which is currently home to the few large-scale maple producers in the state.

Most of the sugar houses open on Maine Maple Sunday are small operations run by people who make much of their income doing something else. But Black's hope is that, with state help and promotion, Maine maple syrup can be a world-wide brand and an edible symbol of the state, like lobster, blueberries and potatoes.

"We need to look at funding a commission, like the Maine Potato Board, to find grants and funding and pull all the resources together needed to grow the industry and get people to invest," said Black. "Maine Maple Sunday shows how interested people are in this product."

Black said the price of Maine syrup has increased steadily partly because there's not a huge supply, and partly because it's known as a high-quality product. There have been other recent studies that tout the antioxidant benefits of maple syrup.

Black says that because only a few areas in the world can produce maple syrup -- a swath of North America from about Michigan to Canada's Atlantic Provinces -- Maine should take more advantage of its maple potential.

And, he says, the growth of Maine Maple Sunday has prompted him and his fellow producers to think about expanding the event officially to a whole weekend next year, or maybe even a week.

Is Maine Maple Month somewhere in our future? (Its acronym would be MMM, after all, and that sounds enticing.)

Maybe, but for now Maine Maple Sunday offers plenty of opportunities to taste syrup and see how it's made --whether it's in a festive-like atmosphere or in a more quiet setting.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: @RayRouthier


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Additional Photos

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Mark Cooper’s sugar house

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Cooper stokes the fire while boiling sap.

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Clyde the ostrich, a Maine Maple Sunday visitor favorite.

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A reverse osmosis system removes water from the sap before it’s boiled down.


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