Spring is here, sap is rising, and this weekend sugar houses across Maine will be welcoming visitors for tours, tastes and treats of all things maple.

It’s Maine Maple Sunday — or, perhaps more accurately, Maine Maple Weekend — an annual ritual established by the Maine Maple Producers Association for the fourth Sunday in March. Most sugarhouses offer free samples of maple syrup and demonstrations of how maple syrup is made. Many farms also offer sugarbush tours, activities, music, and maple products for purchase.

The indigenous peoples of North America were first to collect and use maple syrup. Today, Quebec Province produces almost three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup. In the United States, Maine production ranks third after that of Vermont and New York, which trade first and second places from year to year.

According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry:

  • Maine’s maple industry has an annual statewide economic contribution, including multiplier effects, of an estimated $48.7 million in output, 805 full- and part-time jobs, and $25.1 million in labor income.
  • Somerset County in Maine is the country’s largest maple-producing county. (Waldo County’s neighbor to the north, Somerset runs from Palmyra, Fairfield and Skowhegan up through Jackman to the Quebec border and the Allagash, including the western side of Moosehead Lake.)
  • Maine has roughly 1.89 million taps.

Nutrition authorities generally agree that pure maple syrup isn't just a sweet treat for your pancakes; it's also good for you. Not only is it high in antioxidants; pure maple syrup contains riboflavin, manganese, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium — and has fewer calories than honey.

Just last summer, Maine maple syrup and honey made national headlines when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, successfully amended an appropriations bill to prevent the FDA from mandating “added sugar” labeling for pure maple syrup and honey.

Celebrating all of the merits of Maine maple syrup, Waldo County sugarhouses will be open this weekend.

Back Ridge Sugar House

Owner Josh Knipping will have maple popcorn, pecans, whoopie pies, hard candy, soft candy and lollipops, as well as granulated maple sugar, maple butter and maple syrup at his sugarhouse, 107 Boston Road in Winterport.

“We’re actually doing our first boil today,” he said on Monday. “It’s running very slow so far; we just did our first collection last night. All the snow and ice on the ground are keeping things moving slow.”

Back Ridge Sugar House will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days with demonstrations, maple treats, gift baskets, a raffle, maple syrup in all kinds of sizes and grades, and tours of the small sugarbush out behind the sugarhouse.

For more information, call 944-2575 or check out Back Ridge Sugar House on Facebook.

Beaver Hill Plantation

Local producers are keeping their eyes on the weather and hope to be boiling sap both days. Saturday, they say, looks iffy, but Steve Bennett of Beaver Hill Plantation said, “Sunday looks like it’s going to be a perfect day.”

Bennett will be showing off his big new evaporator, which commands much of the floor space in his sugarhouse at 130 Sibley Road in Freedom. He’ll be offering horse and wagon rides through the maple orchard, walking tours (weather permitting), maple goodies and syrup for sale. Beaver Hill Plantation will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

For more information, call 382-6129 or visit BeaverHillPlantation.com.

Kinney's Sugarhouse

Lee and MaryAnne Kinney will have their sugarhouse at 200 Abbott Road in Knox open both days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We’ll have walking tours, samples, maple glazed doughnut holes, and demonstrations,” Lee said. “We’ll make some candy Saturday, late morning, and we’ll be boiling — if the weather cooperates.

“The sap is running really well,” he said Monday. “We’re boiling this afternoon and tonight. We’ve already made 280 gallons of syrup — we make about 4,000 gallons over the course of the season, so it’s just getting started.”

Kinney’s Sugarhouse will be offering maple cotton candy, whoopie pies, candy, syrup, maple cream, specialty maple candy and molded maple sugar candy.

For more information, call 568-7576 or visit mapleconfections.com.

Simmons & Daughters Sugar House

Chris and Shelley Simmons’ sugarhouse will be open both days, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 261 Weymouth Road in Morrill.

Visitors will be able to watch syrup being made over a wood-fired evaporator, and taste a free sample of ice cream topped with warm maple syrup. There will be maple treats for sale, including maple cotton candy, maple whoopie pies, maple sugar candy, maple hot dogs and more at the Simmons’ annual family event.

For more information, call 342-2444 or visit simmonsanddaughterssugarhouse.com.

Nutkin Knoll Farm and Sugarworks

Just outside Waldo County, Nutkin Knoll Farm and Sugarworks at 269 Chapman Road in Newburgh will be open noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Nutkin Knoll is also a Christmas tree farm.

Plans for this weekend include sugarbush tours, tree tappings, demonstrations, boiling if conditions allow, free ice cream with syrup, and maple popcorn, maple-coated peanuts, maple cotton candy, maple cream and candies for sale.

For more information, call 234-7268 or visit maine-christmas-trees.com.