Cool sweets

The weather certainly has been wacky this month, with about a 50-degree spread in temperature from Sunday to Monday this week.

But as long as the night temperatures stay cold, those of us with a sweet tooth will be rewarded for enduring the frosty dark.

At least two weeks of freezing nights are needed for our maple trees to produce a good flow of late-winter sap, the source of America’s oldest breakfast condiment. A warm month can make the sap tappers nervous.

And there are plenty of maple harvesters around: little Connecticut ranks 10th in the United States in its maple syrup production — some 11,000 gallons annually. Ambler Farm, of course, is a micro-producer with its own label sold at the farmers market. The farm started its Tap-A-Tree program earlier this month and a maple syrup open house is planned for March 5 and March 12.

The American Indians were the first to recognize the treat offered by maple sap, boiled down to its syrupy or solid essences. But it is only recently that scientists have found that this sweetener is actually good for you. A single teaspoon contains nearly a quarter of your daily need of manganese plus a good dose of zinc to boot. Both minerals are important ingredients in the body’s antioxidant defenses.

So our maples not only provide shade, oxygen, sweet treats, and terrific fall colors, they also contribute to our good health. —J.S.