Did you realize that despite the cold temperatures and blustery weather forecasts, March is only days away? That means that Spring will arrive shortly, if in name only. It is hard to dream of spring’s rebirth with sky-high snow mountains taking over precious real estate in area parking lots, not to mention the ice and snow that covers everything in sight in London, Ontario. Winter can’t hold on forever though, and I know one way to prove that it is losing it’s grip on Southwestern Ontario – regional sugar bushes are set to open this weekend!
As any stalwart Canadian knows, the sweet taste of maple syrup is worth the trek into any chilly sugar bush. In fact, Canada produces approximately 80% of the world’s supply of maple syrup. While Quebec is the leader in maple production (over 24 million litres), 2.2 million litres of syrup is nothing to sniff at from Ontario’s perspective. As we all raise the same maple leaf adorned flag, Canadians across the country know that the mighty Acer is worth our pride.
How, if at all, does the 2013-14 winter that refuses to let go affect maple trees, and in turn maple syrup production? A phone call to a local maple syrup producer is one way to find out.
Here’s what I found out;
The folks at Crinklaw Maple Products (4570 Westminster Dr, London) are a little slow to start this year. While they have started to tap some of their 2,500 sugar maples (Acer saccharum), deep snow has prevented them finishing the task to date. That is an awful lot of trees though and I can understand the delay what with the deep snow around my own home. All that snow is good for the trees though, as it provides excellent coverage to the tree roots, and plenty of moisture for the trees to absorb. Not to fear though, as they are slated to open the Sugar House on March 1st, 2014. The store is not open Mondays or Tuesdays, but it is stocked full of sweet treats the rest of the week. Plus, the 2014 Maple Festival is scheduled for March 8-9, 2014 from 10 am – 3pm, with wagon rides, pancake meals, maple syrup displays and more fun to tempt you with. Head out for a sweet weekend with the family!
Over at Rolling Ridge (22681 Vanneck Rd, Ilderton) the story is the same. There is still 2 feet of snow in the bush that is hampering the tapping of trees. They normally have 15,000 taps in their maple forest, but are waiting for the weather to warm up before putting all the stiles in place. Last weekend’s warm spell started this year’s production off, but this week’s fickle dip in Celsius has shut it right back down again.
You see daytime temperatures need to rise in order for the sap to start flowing in the trees. Ideally maple syrup producers need to see warm days (around 5° C) and freezing overnight temperatures (about -5° C) to keep the flow of sap dripping. Any warmer and the starches stop converting into sugar, buds burst, and the new leaves begin to unfurl. That spells an end to maple syrup production. What Ontario maple producers are worried about is just that – a slow start, but quick catch-up by Mother Nature to make for a short season. And looking at the long-range forecast, fears are that it will still be a few weeks before production takes off.
As much as I am gunning for the warm kiss of spring sun, I have to admit that some sweet maple syrup is a part of my dreams too. Here’s hoping that the temperatures rise a little more, but last long enough for a good season for maple syrup farmers in these parts. Our sweet spring dreams depend on it.*For more information about maple syrup, Ontario maple syrup producers, and to find nearby maple syrup festivals, check out the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association page.