By Julia Howard
In the quiet of the night, on the eve of a March snowstorm, Slate Valley Farms’ owners Pat Imbimbo and his daughter Gina Willis began boiling sap for their first batch of maple syrup for the season.
“Last year, we started boiling on Valentine’s Day, so I worked hard and tapped our entire farm in February thinking I was behind,” says Gina. “But then it stayed cold this whole time, so I had weeks of waiting and checking every day to see if we could start boiling.”
For maple syrup producers, the climate is a crucial factor. When daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing, the fluctuation creates pressure in the maple trees, encouraging sap to flow.
This season, Pat and Gina tapped 4,000 maple trees on their 101-acre family-run farm in the hills of Granville near the Vermont border.
Their sap-gathering is automated, using a vacuum system Pat monitors on his iPhone. The sap runs through a reverse osmosis system, removing much of the water before boiling. This method results in less boiling time, less fuel, and a better quality syrup.
This Saturday, March 19, the Saratoga Farmers’ Market celebrates the beginning of maple season and the return of Slate Valley with the season’s first batch of maple syrup. There will be plenty of maple-infused food and drinks to enjoy, too!
TogaNola offers $1 off of its products made with locally-produced maple syrup. Nettle Meadow will bring their maple chevre, and R&G Cheesemakers will have their sweet and spicy maple chipotle chevre. Argyle Cheese Farmer will have maple Greek yogurt and traditional maple yogurt. Stop by Something’s Brewing for a maple latte or a bag of maple-nut flavored coffee beans. Muddy Trail’s Jerky Co. will bring a variety of maple products: maple beef snack sticks, maple BBQ dry rub, and pancake mix for soaking up all that delicious maple syrup.
Various local farms will bring eggs, bacon, and ham to make sweet and savory maple-drenched breakfasts to help you celebrate maple season at home.
Children and families can look forward to a maple-themed activity at Saturday’s celebration of maple season.
At Slate Valley Farms, Gina is hopeful for a lengthy and abundant maple sap harvest with prolonged cold temperatures. A reason for all of us to appreciate the changeable temperatures that come with spring’s onset.
This weeks recipe: Baked Oatmeal with Maple Syrup