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Maple syrup time!
As we march through April the effects of warm winter weather and record temperatures in March have left a bitter taste in the mouths of maple syrup producers.
Cold nights and warm days are needed to produce this sweet surprise, but record warmth in March stopped the flow of sap as maple trees quickly went into bud.
In fact many in the industry are saying this is the worst maple syrup season they have ever seen. The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association says producers will have a multi-million-dollar loss due to output that’s down at least 50% in parts of the province.
The good news is most feel this season shortage of sap will not significantly impact on the price as previous maple syrup seasons have produced ample supply. More good news is research from the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Rhode Island found a total of 54 antioxidants in maple syrup, five of which were new compounds with several of them reported to have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-bacterial properties.
With this great news we must remind ourselves that maple syrup is sugar-laden, making blueberries or other antioxidant-rich fruits better choices for healthy eating.
But — there’s no denying maple syrup is one of the best natural sweeteners. On top of pancakes or used as a glaze on foods like pork, chicken, duck, salmon or trout, maple syrup brings practically anything from drab to fab in moments.
On root vegetables maple syrup helps enhance their natural sugars and in sauces and dressings the sweet taste of spring is easily added.
On twitter @shalsroy claims the best way to enjoy maple syrup is through a combination of buttermilk and green onion placed on top of a salad of fresh Ontario hydroponic Boston lettuce.
In salads, mains, desserts — maple syrup’s the way to go!
Frank Ferragine is the weather and gardening specialist for Breakfast Television Toronto on Citytv, and appears regularly on CityLine. His first book, Frankie Flowers Get Growing (HarperCollins) is now available. Follow Frank on twitter @frankferragine or email email@example.com.
SWEET POTATO, MAPLE AND PECAN TARTS
These are somewhere between a butter tart and pumpkin pie but with a hint of maple syrup and toasted pecans — mmm good! Recipe courtesy of Foodland Ontario. (Foodland.gov.on.ca.)
1 medium sweet potato, about 12 oz (375 g)
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) butter, melted
1 cup (250 ml) maple syrup
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) vanilla
24 3-inch (8 cm) frozen tart shells, thawed
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped toasted pecans
Scrub sweet potato and trim off ends. Pierce with small knife in several places; microwave at High for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender, turning over halfway through. Let cool enough to handle; remove skin and mash with fork until smooth. Measure 1 cup (250 ml) and place in bowl. Whisk in butter, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until smooth.
Bake tart shells on baking sheet, in batches if necessary, in 375F (190C) oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle pecans among partially baked shells, gently pushing down any puffed-up pastry. Divide sweet potato mixture among shells. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes or until filling is slightly puffed, almost set and pastry is lightly golden. Let cool on rack.
TIP: Make filling in 4-cup (1 L) glass measuring cup and it will be easy to pour into tart shells.
Yield: Makes 24 tarts.