Should maple syrup be the state’s official sweetener?

The Recorder, November 27, 2017, by M.J. Tidwell

BOSTON — Maple syrup has long been a source of New England pride. So it might seem that a competition was on the horizon when Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, proposed a bill to make maple syrup the official sweetener of Massachusetts and designate March as Massachusetts Maple Month.

But it turns out other New England states are happy to share.

“Maple syrup is actually made by a very small group of people,” Ed Fuller of Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster, N.H., said. “Anything we can do to promote it is great.”

He added that many sugarmakers are also making efforts to show that maple syrup shouldn’t be relegated just to the breakfast aisle.

“In fact, we’re giving out recipe cards up here for all sorts of inventive ideas that people bring in.” he said, “Much more than just pancakes and waffles.”

Some creative recipes at Fuller’s include maple and brown sugar pork tenderloin, maple mashed sweet potatoes, and maple bacon-wrapped smokies, tiny bacon-and-maple-wrapped sausages that can be served for appetizers. There’s also maple roasted asparagus, and maple chipotle flank-steak tacos, maple apple dumplings, all the way down to maple margaritas.

Maine made maple syrup its official state sweetener in 2015 and it has been the “state flavor” in Vermont since 1993.

Kulik’s bill would also establish March as Massachusetts Maple Month, by gubernatorial proclamation, “in recognition of the vital role maple sugaring plays in the agriculture industry, as well as the culture, heritage and economy of the commonwealth.”

The bill, H.3735, goes on to state that the designation would “commend the maple syrup producers that create a natural native sweetener and a versatile ingredient that adds unique flavor enhancing qualities to many dishes.”

The Massachusetts Maple Producers Association testified in support of the bill, saying it will bring attention to the hard work maple syrup producers do and will celebrate the first agricultural crop of the year.

“For hundreds of years in Massachusetts, steam rising from sugarhouses has been one of the first signs of spring, calling people to participate in the harvest and enjoy the sweet products made by their neighbors,” the association testified. “Designating maple syrup to be the official sweetener of the commonwealth acknowledges the historic, cultural, and economic significance of maple syrup in Massachusetts.”

Kulik, who enjoys maple syrup on his morning oatmeal and as a sweetener in other lunch and dinner dishes, said that following a public hearing in early November, the bill might begin to move forward soon.

“It is still in committee where there should be some movement within the next few weeks,” he said.