Most Winter's we New Yorkers are accustomed to consist of week after week bitter cold and wind, the dreaded morning walks to the car to thaw out our vehicles from the nightly freezing and of course plenty of snow. This Winter however was incredibly uncharacteristic in New York. Honestly, aside from the one major snowstorm and a few days of below-freezing temperatures, this Winter kind of just felt like an extended Fall.

Fall Foliage
Photo by Phil Henry on Unsplash

Let's face it, we were all enjoying the unseasonably warm Winter temperatures while we had them. I know I saw more than a few people wearing shorts at the supermarket in mid-January and February. That being said, the unexpected warm weather could lead to some potentially negative side effects. One major negative side effect being the harvesting of and production of maple syrup.

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Significance of Maple Syrup in New York

Despite living in New York my entire life, I always forget that maple syrup and its production and harvesting of it have great significance in New York. For reference, maple syrup season usually starts in February and ends in April while reaching its peak in March. In addition, New York is second only to Vermont in terms of states that produce the most maple syrup.

Three bottles of maple syrup made by a backyard hobbyist in Nova Scotia.

It is because maple syrup is only produced in the northeastern section that it has such significance in our area. Every year, numerous festivals are dedicated to maple syrup that takes place throughout the region. In short, literally, everyone relies on us to produce as much maple syrup as possible so that way we can all enjoy our pancakes, waffles and whatever else we can put syrup on.

How is Maple Syrup Produced?

Maple syrup as a product is fairly simple to produce as not many steps are involved. Maple trees produce sap and it is that sap that is collected and stored. Once collected the sap is boiled where the water from the sap evaporates and the leftover product is bottled as maple syrup. That product can also be further evaporated in order to produce different maple products like butter or sugar.


The Key Factor in Maple Syrup Production

Out of the entire process, there is one key vital factor that can impact an entire harvest for a single Maple season. This is where the unseasonable weather mentioned earlier comes into play because the one key factor is, you guessed it, the weather.

For Maple Trees to produce the sap needed for maple syrup they need cold winter temperatures. There is a sweet spot in terms of weather conditions that yields great results for sap and those conditions are...

 ....when temperatures climb into the 40s by day and dip back down below freezing at night. That causes pressure changes within the tree that allows the sap to flow.

Maple Syrup
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Check This Out: How Can You Get Maple Sap Happy in Dutchess County NY?

The Unseasonable Weathers Potential Impact on Syrup Production

Here's the key issue with those warm winter temperatures we had this season and how it affects the syrup making process. The main issue is that when sap is collected from the trees, the trees are technically still dormant, kind of like an animal hibernating for the winter. With temperatures that reached into the 60s during February, the potential exists where these maple trees could have woken up early.

Maple Syrup
Eduardo Vázquez on Unsplash

You know the maple trees have awoken just like you would with other types of plants and trees and that's when they start budding. When the maple trees grow their buds that's typically when the maple season ends. When the maple trees bud, they begin to produce 'green sap' which is extremely bitter, which obviously is not what you want when comes to making maple syrup.


Maple Farmers in New York began sap collecting early this season for precautionary purposes however it is currently unclear if or how much the unseasonable weather this past winter affected the yield of sap for syrup this year. Time will tell what the end result will be but hopefully, we don't see syrup prices rising like egg prices anytime soon.

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