Saturday, March 17, 2007


Around Town: The wait for maple syrup is well worth it

By Mary Carey Staff Writer
Published on March 16, 2007
Amherst Bulletin

Shangzhu Wang, of China, tries some maple syrup this past weekend at the Hadley Sugar Shack.
March was roaring like a lion last week, trying to make up for a sheepish winter, all the better backdrop for an excursion to the Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges spring bulb shows and breakfast at a maple sugar house.

The tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other spring blossoming bulbs were delightful and their fragrance intoxicating. The shows, open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through March 18 at the Lyman Conservatory at Smith and Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke, are annual crowd pleasers - as are the sugar houses.

It was an hour-long wait to get seated for breakfast at the North Hadley Sugar Shack on Route 47 Saturday, but no one seemed to be complaining. What was a modest sugar shack when brothers Joe and John Boisvert first started serving breakfast in 1996 now has an extensive array of maple sugar and locally produced products to engage diners' attention while they're waiting for a table. There is also a continuous sap boiling demonstration in the back room and a petting zoo outside. Although March is reputed to go out like a lamb, most of the lambs were kicking their heels inside their wooden shelters on Saturday, while a lone chicken amused the visitors by stalking the yard.

As Michael Stern, co-author with his wife, Jane, of "Road Food" and "Eat your way Across America," writes of the Boisverts' operation at, "The North Hadley Sugar Shack at Boisvert Farm has many things to recommend it. It is a picture-perfect farmstand in the Pioneer Valley where you can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season from summer strawberries to winter squash."

Stern recommends the maple cotton candy for their "great clouds of edible sweetness."
Joe Boisvert was minding the sap boiling Saturday, but it wasn't mist from sap rising into the air. He was boiling water to show how the process works, because the sap hadn't been running in the last few days.

It's been too cold. The sap is a very dilute solution of sugar water that comes up from storage in the maple tree's roots. To run, it needs cold nights and warm days above freezing. Other fast facts about maple syrup: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, and trees with one to three taps in them usually produce enough sap to make a quart of syrup per tap.
The back room isn't only popular for the boiling demonstration: There is also a pitcher of fresh maple syrup that visitors can pour into small paper tasting cups. Shangzhu Wang, a University of Massachusetts graduate student in computer science from China, and Mandy Cheung, a graduate student of education from Hong Kong, were sipping syrup on Saturday.

They had been waiting for a seat for about 45 minutes but were having a good time.

"We didn't expect it would be this crowded," Wang said.

Maple syrup is not unheard of in China and Hong Kong, they said, although honey is much more common where Wang comes from, she said. Both women give the maple syrup high marks.

"That's why we come here," Cheung said.

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