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March may be MA's sweetest month

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The kickoff for MA's maple sugaring season will be March 7 at 10 a.m. at the Belchertown gazebo on the town common. March was recently declared "Maple Month' in the Commonwealth and the state's Maple Producers Association will be on hand to tap the first ceremonial tree and sugarhouses nearby will be open for tours. A number of sugarhouses also have restaurants.

The event is scheduled to coincide with the time when more than 300 maple producers will begin to harvest sap from maple trees and boil it down to produce pure Massachusetts maple products. While modern equipment and energy-efficient practices have changed some of the processes, maple syrup is still produced the same way it has been for hundreds of years – by boiling down the sap from maple trees until it reaches the proper density and sweetness of maple syrup.

The highlight of the maple season is Maple Weekend, March 22-23, when sugarhouses around the state will open to visitors who want to see syrup being made, learn about the process and history of maple production, and sample and purchase the Commonwealth’s sweetest crop. Many restaurants will feature menu items made with 100% pure Massachusetts maple syrup that weekend as well. Lists of participating sugarhouses and restaurants are available at www.massmaple.org.

The maple producers group is sponsoring a recipe contest, seeking recipes made with maple syrup from state residents. Submit your recipe by March 14. Winners will be selected March 18.

The group notes that in an average year, the state's producers produce around 50,000 gallons of maple syrup with a value of about $3 million. Last year's season exceeded that volume, producing 63,000 gallons.

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