Maple Weekend Just One Delicious Reason to Visit Tioga County
Feb 26, 2016 05:37PM
By Vanessa Orr
This observation hive at Draper’s Super Bee Apiaries is more than 27 years old.
Maple Weekend, sponsored by the Potter-Tioga Maple Producers Association, is a great way to get to know more about where your food comes from—and about the people who make it. Now in its 12th year, the self-driving tour of the area around Wellsboro, PA—otherwise known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon— is a fun, educational, and delicious way to learn more about the many maple products that come from the area. Fifteen producers participate in the event, ranging from Jim & Dora Tice’s 58-acre farm, where they raise beef cattle and make maple syrup, candy, cream, crumb sugar and cotton candy in their kitchen, to larger operations like Patterson’s Maple Farms, the state’s largest maple producer, and the second largest in the nation.
All of the producers have stories to tell, which they’ll be serving up with free samples and a lot of maple syrup-making knowledge over the March 19-20 weekend. Jim Tice, for example, started making syrup after returning from Vietnam in 1967 and buying a jug of syrup that didn’t taste like the syrup he remembered from his youth; despite making 20,000 gallons of syrup last year, Richard Patterson still runs the business just like his mom and dad did, using the same recipes, and “smelling the air” to decide when the time is right to tap the trees. Visitors can enjoy boiling demonstrations, tree tapping, hay wagon rides and, of course, samples of everything from maple syrup sundaes to mulled maple tea, hot dogs cooked in syrup and more. Many of the farms also have small stores, so you can even stock up on goodies to take home, and once you taste some of these products—the maple dipping mustard is to die for—you’re going to need a bigger pantry.
While you’re in Tioga County, you should also plan a stop in Millerton, PA, to take a tour of Draper’s Super Bee Apiaries to learn about another local delicacy—fresh-made honey. You can take a tour of the apiary, which includes the chance to see an observation bee hive that has been in existence for more than 27 years. By the time you leave, you’ll completely understand the term “busy as a bee”—did you know that for every one pound of honey made, bees fly more than 55,000 miles and visit 2 million flowers? And their honey tastes different, depending on the types of flowers they eat—in the apiaries’ store, you can choose from orange blossom, wildflower and goldenrod honeys, among others.
Bee products are also good for your health—Draper’s supplies the U.S. Olympic running team with bee pollen, which is used to build dense muscle mass, and propolis, also made in the hive, is a natural blood thinner. Royal jelly, made from bees’ glandular secretions , contains essential vitamins used in the treatment of chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, and because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, honey can also be used to treat wounds, burns and infections. And did I mention that it tastes good, too?
One other stop that you should make on this ‘foodie’ tour of northcentral PA is Highland Chocolates, located in Wellsboro, PA, which is known for its ‘extraordinary chocolates made by extraordinary people.’ You can take a tour of this nonprofit, which serves as a training program for adults with disabilities, to see how the homemade chocolate is made, including its famous pretzel bark. It was a real joy to get to talk to the individuals making the chocolate, who were more than happy to explain their roles in getting the product to market, and to introduce us to their mixers, nicknamed Willie Wonka and Mrs. Potts. This is a really special place for many reasons—only one of which is that it makes chocolate.
If all of this eating has worn you out (and I haven’t even touched on the many good restaurants in the area), you might want to take a break to visit Emerge Healing Arts & Spa, which is also located in Wellsboro. Owned by Laura Lee and Jesse Robinson, the spa offers a wide variety of services, including an utterly relaxing 90-minute hot stone massage, which I highly recommend. And in keeping with the sustainable culture of the area, Emerge will soon be offering a high-end organic green skin care line with products harvested from local gardens.
If you’re able to stay overnight or longer, there are numerous hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the area. I was especially taken with my stay at the Bear Mountain Lodge, a bed-and-breakfast that ironically, doesn’t offer breakfast on-site. In addition to gorgeous log-paneled rooms containing fireplaces, indoor whirlpools or outdoor hot tubs, a stay comes with coupons for breakfast at the Wellsboro Diner, an authentic 1939 porcelain diner which, in addition to just being cool, also serves amazingly good home-cooked comfort food.
To learn more about Maple Weekend or the Tioga County area, check out www.VisitTiogaPA.com or call 1-888-TIOGA28. To learn more about the businesses mentioned in this article, see below:
Bear Mountain Lodge: www.bearmountainbb.com or 570-724-2428
Draper’s Super Bee Apiaries: www.draperbee.com or 800-233-4273
Emerge Healing Arts & Spa: www.emergehealingarts.com or 570-360-8180
Highland Chocolates: www.highlandchocolates.org or 570-724-9334
Jim & Dora Tice’s Maple Syrup Operation: firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-549-5257
Maple Weekend, sponsored by the Potter-Tioga Maple Producers Association: www.pamaple.com
Patterson Maple Farms: http://www.pattersonmaplefarms.com or 814-628-3751