By Lisa Green
Here’s why you can look forward to mud season in Massachusetts: It also means maple sugaring season in the Berkshires and that certainly sweetens the outlook when you’re planning a group tour to this region.
Maple sugaring is hardly new to the region. Before the Pilgrims even landed at Plymouth Rock, it’s likely the Native Americans ate “sapsicles,” icicles of frozen maple sap that form at the end of a broken twig. These sugary treats were the clues that there was sweetness inside those maple trees. Eventually, the Native American Indians established “sugar camps” for the month or so that the maple sap would flow.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years, and things haven’t changed that much. Instead of sugar camps, the Berkshires are dotted with farms and sugarhouses that tap into their own forests and contribute to the production of about 50,000 gallons of Massachusetts’ maple syrup a year.
Mother Nature rules the start of sugaring season, and because this has been an unusually warm winter, some of the maple syrup producers started tapping their maple trees early. Many of the farms offer tours of their maple sugaring process and some offer maple-inspired breakfasts and lunches. Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock converted its calf barn into the “Calf-A” and serves pancake meals with Ioka’s own maple syrup. Your group can sample maple products and watch the maple sugaring activities in the sugarhouse.
Planning a trip for a small group? Stay at the Warfield House Inn at Valley View Farm in Charlemont overlooking the scenic Mohawk Trail and immerse yourself into a New England family farm tradition. Relax in the splendid bed and breakfast, take a farm tour, visit the sugarhouse to see the makings of maple syrup, and savor maple-infused dishes in the Warfield House’s pub. (One to try: the pizza crust flavored with a hint of maple syrup.) Larger groups are welcomed for day visits as well.
If your group is just looking to pick up some of maple products (they make great gifts), you’ll find locally-made items at farmer’s markets throughout the country and at markets such as Cricket Creek Farm Store, Berkshire Organics and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace.
If you want to see all this maple fun in action, be sure to check out our Maple Sugaring Video. Now that you have seen what maple sugaring is all about, get out your mud boots on and start planning a “sweet” group itinerary to the Berkshires next Spring!
Lisa Green is a freelance writer and amateur harpist who has recently relocated to the Berkshires from Florida (the state)…and couldn’t be happier.