I love all the booths at the Homer Farmers Market, brimming with flowers and vegetables, crafts and food. That’s why it takes me so long to walk through. There could be a pulled pork sandwich hiding behind the coffee and teas, some morels behind the strawberry plants, cucumbers hidden by the basil.
There is one booth that is always very simple. You will see tidy bottles with crisp labels and Jake Beaudoin and Anna Meredith behind the table. On the label you will see Bridge Creek Birch Syrup. All the complexity and work in these bottles is behind the scenes.
This is the third year Jake and Anna have been making birch syrup, tapping the trees in April, collecting and boiling daily for 20 days while the sap is running. They use only 10 percent of the trees’ sap, so the trees are unharmed by the process. Anna tells of some maple trees in New York that have been tapped for decades and are 120 years old.
But birch syrup is quite different from the maple syrup Anna grew up tapping. It needs more than double the boiling. Undaunted, each year Anna and Jake have increased their production 100 percent.
That has led to a monumental production of 22 gallons of syrup this year.
That may not sound like much, but since they are getting a ratio of about one gallon of syrup from 125 gallons of birch sap, that means that they are hauling more than 2,700 gallons of sap home to their “sugar shop” and burning five and one-half cords of wood to boil it down.
Jake and Anna are constantly reinvesting in their system. They recently added a drop flue evaporator to their shop and hope to one day add a reverse osmosis system to increase the rate of moisture reduction.
But more than anything, Jake and Anna are prioritizing so that their product stays local — local trees and local vendors to support this truly local flavor.
Keep your eyes peeled for the subtle gems found down at the Homer Farmers Market this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Ocean Drive.
Kyra Wagner is director of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.