Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

Okay, I’ll grant you, maple syrup may not technically be a health food – it is, after all, pretty sweet – but it can be a good alternative to the empty calories of refined sugar and the questionable chemicals in artificial sweeteners.

Maple syrup brings some healthy nutrients to the table – minerals like calcium, manganese and zinc – and antioxidants, too.
And as healthy as honey is, maple syrup is actually a little better for you.

While a tablespoon of honey contains 17.4 grams of carbs – almost all coming from fructose –maple syrup contains less sugar overall – and less fructose.

There are various grades of maple syrup, depending on the color.

In the U. S., maple syrup is classified as grade A or B.

Grade A is broken down into Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber.

Grade B maple syrup is the darkest of all and has the strongest flavor.

The darker syrups are produced from sap extracted late in the season.

The lighter syrups are usually preferred for pancake syrups and as toppings on other food.

The darker maple syrups are often used in baking and cooking.

When you are buying maple syrup, make sure you are getting real maple syrup, preferably made by a local producer.

There are less expensive, commercial varieties called maple syrup, which are really far less healthy maple flavored syrups containing refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Besides having it on pancakes, waffles and French toast, there are lots of other ways to use maple syrup in your cooking.

Recipes for meat and vegetable dishes as well as recipes for soups, breads, desserts and salad dressings will enable you and your family to enjoy the delicious flavor of maple syrup all year long.

This time of year, when the sap starts flowing in the maple trees, and I start craving maple syrup, I like to start the day by drizzling a little on my oatmeal or cream of wheat.

And have you ever tried adding a spoonful to your morning tea?

Maple syrup production has been a harbinger of the sweet joys of springtime for centuries. Because of the altitude of our mountains, Pocahontas County is ideally situated to provide the perfect environment for making some of the best maple syrup to be found anywhere.

The annual tour of sugar camps offers a glimpse into the fascinating process of turning maple sap into the sweet, amber syrup.

Frostmore Farm in Dunmore and Fort Warwick Farm in Green Bank will welcome guests to tour their sugar-producing operations on February 22 and March 21.

Local restaurants, lodging and entertainment will focus on the sweet stuff, as well.

Local syrups by Beverage’s Sunrise Farm, Cassell’s Sugar Shack, Fort Warwick Farm and Frostmore Farm, will be served at participating restaurants and at other syrup-related events across the county.

And local maple syrup will be on sale around the county.

Look for it at the 4th Avenue Gallery in Marlinton, the Green Bank Arts Center in Green Bank, the Levels Depot in Hillsboro and the Cass Company Store, the Last Run Restaurant and the Leatherbark Ford Gallery in Cass.

Inco-Check