FRIENDLY, W.Va. — Turning from the country road along the ridge line to Cedar Run Farm, the expanse of clear blue sky opened and puffs of white smoke billowed from the sugar house.
It’s maple syrup making time in the Mountain State, and farmers are working day and night to harvest the sap until it runs dry.
Father and son Bill and Chris Metz are processing more than 3,400 gallons of maple sap tapped in the last 24 hours from trees on their 150-acre Pleasants County farm, marking the end of the long, frozen winter season.
“Usually we get started here about the second week of February, but with the weather, the trees have been frozen up and we just got started with our first run last week,” Chris Metz said.
That’s good news for maple farmers and great news for people who have a sweet tooth for 100 percent pure maple syrup.
North America’s hardwood forests, with a plentiful supply of maple trees, have provided sucrose-rich sap for sugar and syrup production for hundreds of years. Some say American Indians first made maple syrup by placing hot stones into hollowed-out maple logs to coax out the sweet sap. Later, English and French settlers used maple as their main source of sugar, crystallizing it. President Thomas Jefferson even started a maple plantation at Monticello in the late 1700s.
By the mid-1800s, farmers began tapping into still frozen trees in January or February, letting the sweetness drip into buckets as the warmer spring days thawed the sap. They’d then tote the buckets to a large pot and boil it down over an outdoor fire, until there was nothing left but the sweetness.