By Amelia Ritner
Spring is almost here, and with it comes maple syrup season! New England boasts hundreds of small maple syrup-producing farms, one of which is well-known Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, Massachusetts. Ioka Farm’s famous syrup products will be featured at the upcoming March Maple Dinner, a fundraiser for Berkshire Grown and Share the Bounty to be held at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox on March 23rd at 6pm. If this sounds like a tasty reason to visit the Berkshires be sure to book your spot at the table ASAP as this event sells out fast.
Miss Terri, the sample guru at Ioka, says that the frigid temperatures we have seen in February have pushed the maple syrup harvest forward. That leaves less time for them to harvest, but she assures us that all grades of syrup will be harvested, if only during a shorter time period. “Whenever you buy maple syrup, you are buying last year’s,” Miss Terri says, noting how long it takes to harvest and boil the raw syrup down into the amber liquid we all know and love.
Miss Terri adds a personal, intimate flair to her syrups with her special names for each grade: Grade A light amber, the first to be harvested each season and the grade used for making maple candy is “Sweet Tooth Susie;” Grade A medium amber, with a slightly stronger flavor, is “Middle of the Road Millie;” Grade A dark amber, the one most of us are used to from a regular grocery store shelf is “GPLM,” or “General Public Loves Me;” and last is the “Piece de Resistance,” “Queen Bee,” Grade B, with the most intense maple flavor.
You can taste all these flavors, as well as the food of host chef Daire Rooney from Allium Restaurant & Bar, hors d’oeuvres and a family style dinner prepared by chefs from Eat, Red Apple Butchers, Cranwell, Prairie Whale, Mezze Bistro & Bar, John Andrews, The Kitchen, nAtURAlly and cafeADAM at the March Maple Dinner. The event will also host a live auction, opportunity to enter to win a one-week vacation to France, and a cash bar featuring beers and wines from local brewers. Tickets are $100 for Berkshire Grown members, $125 for non-members, and $65 for Farmers. Book your tickets NOW!
Amelia Ritner is a writer and aspiring farmer, with a passion for cooking fresh food, sustainable agriculture, and educating others about producing their own food. She currently lives in Pittsfield with her two young children and grows herbs and vegetables in containers outside her apartment.