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Depending on grammatical emphasis, the phrase, “Adirondack spring tonic,” refers to either something healthy and tasty to drink, or it describes the curative effect of early spring in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. I’ve imbibed generously this spring and will attest to the rejuvenating effects of both.
I can confirm both types of Adirondack Spring Tonic are effective. The following discussion on the first kind of Adirondack Spring Tonic - Adirondack Spring Tonic as something healthy and tasty to drink, includes recipe ideas.
An expansion on the second definition of Adirondack Spring Tonic describes how invigorating it is to feel warm sun, smell fresh earth, and hear bird song, includes much rhapsodizing about skiing and life in the Adirondack Mountains.
I first learned about drinking raw maple sap when a local shopkeeper offered to sell me a mason jar of maple sap for $4.50. “This is the stuff that flows out of the maple tree, the sap, usually boiled for syrup?” I asked. The sample was delicious, but not $4.50/quart delicious. “But consider the health benefits,” responded the store owner, noting Adirondack old timers consider raw maple sap a tonic, defined: 1. Tonic - a medicine that invigorates or strengthens. Since I aspire to become an Adirondack old timer, my mind flashed to our maple tree covered property and I silently calculated how many quarts of Adirondack spring tonic I could harvest. The resident biologist and I are experienced maple syrup producers, if one season counts as experienced, so I knew one maple tree can produce as much as 15-20 gallons of sap in a season. I declined the quart jar.
Four years and four tapped trees, spiles, and buckets later, I am hooked on home produced, fresh maple sap. I make tea, coffee, oatmeal, and rice pudding out of maple sap, and of course, I drink the chilled maple sap by the quart. Maple sap tastes slightly sweet and naturally, has a very subtle maple aftertaste.
Maple sugaring season is short but sweet in the Adirondacks; the sap only flows for about 6 weeks during that time when the days are sunny and warm and the nights are cold, so we enjoy Mother Nature’s tonic as much as we can, while we can. I start the day with black tea made with maple sap, no sweetener necessary, and proceed to oatmeal made with maple sap instead of water. The coup de grace in an Adirondack spring breakfast is the dessert from breakfast cup of Adirondack Maple Mocha Jo, based on coffee brewed using map sap, recipe below.
In a delightful Adirondack springtime synergy, the very same climatic conditions that cause the maple sap to flow create stupendous spring skiing. This brings us to tonic definition number 2. Tonic - anything invigorating physically, mentally, or morally. I feel silly stating the obvious, but I will. Spring skiing in the Adirondacks fits that definition to a ski, ooops, to a T.
Corn snow skiing is surely the best consolation for the imminent departure of winter. The repeated daily thaws and nightly re-freezing of the snow surface changes the snow crystal shapes over time. Like skiing on velvet, true corn snow is a delight to ski or ride once it softens in the afternoon. Corn snow is spring’s version of powder, only warmer. Like magic for your legs, turns in corn snow seem effortless.
The air smells different in the spring in the Adirondacks. The dry air and essence of cold, new snow is replaced with a fresh, earthy scent from spots of exposed dirt and moss, thawed and warmed by the spring sun. The quiet, muffled shuffle of skis on snow in January is replaced with the sound of corn snow slipping away from edges, chickadee songs, woodpecker rat-a-tats, turkey gobble and yelps, and streams rushing with snow melt. Invigorating is one way to describe this experience, awesome is another.
As an invigorating back country ski on a warm, sunny, spring day that starts with a maple sap breakfast proves, drink it or live it, Adirondack spring tonic is good medicine.
Adirondack Maple Mocha Jo Recipe
8 0z. freshly brewed dark roast coffee using maple sap instead of water
1 teaspoon of organic unsweetened dark cocoa
~ 2 oz. milk as preferred
Squirt of vanilla
2 drops of stevia or maple syrup as preferred
Cinnamon sprinkle garnish
Combine all ingredients in a large mug, whisking cocoa well.