Blame that yucky maple syrup on the weather

Thu May 17, 2012 11:45am EDT
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By Jason McLure

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Bad news for waffle lovers.

Historic warmth in March slashed this year's U.S. maple syrup output as much as 40 percent as sugar maple trees, which need freezing temperatures at night to sustain sap production, dried up early or largely produced bad-tasting syrup.

In the Northeast, where nearly all U.S. maple syrup is produced, sugarmakers traditionally gather sap from maple trees during a six-week season from late February to early April before buds appear on the trees.

The 2012 season was cut short by the warmest March on record.

"You take 80 degrees (27 degrees Celsius) in March by golly it don't help nothing," said Alfred Carrier, a sugarmaker in Glover, Vermont. "We had quite a lot of off-flavored syrup. I don't think you'd want to put it on a pancake."

Syrup unsuitable for the breakfast table is typically sold for industrial purposes such as flavoring chewing tobacco or salad dressing.

Maple syrup production has been increasing in the U.S. over the past decade as a result of new technology and a rising number of trees in production. Vermont, New York and Maine are the largest maple-producing states in the U.S.

It takes about 40 gallons (151 liters) of sap, usually gathered from the tapped trees through plastic tubing using a vacuum system, to yield one gallon (3.8 liters) of syrup.   Continued...