A Sweet Southern Delicacy: Walnut Syrup and the Start of Two Young Farmers’ Journey

| 3/21/2018 9:54:00 PM

Tags: maple tapping, maple syrup, walnuts, sugaring, young farmers, Tennessee, Jonathan Olivier,

Pouring Real Maple Syrup Waffles

It’s not every day you come across Tennessee maple syrup — let alone walnut syrup. And in late January, the trees were ripe for tapping as the days were warm and the nights below freezing.

Tyler Burggraf, who, in the fall, scouted the 40 or so trees we would be tapping, had been waiting for this all winter. His lines were strung out across the woods like a maze, sloping downhill some 500 feet.

“Ever had walnut syrup before?” he asked shortly after I met him. Of course I hadn’t, let alone heard of it. After trying it, though, I was sold — it’s a delicious syrup made from black walnut trees, producing a yellow-tinted product that, to me, is sweeter than maple.

Tyler’s been tapping trees for a few years on his parent’s land near Tazewell, Tennessee, just south of the Virginia line. A few of the old timers in the area told him he was crazy — he’d never get enough sap out of those trees, they said. But, I could clearly see who was on the right side of that exchange by glancing at the amber and golden mason jars full of syrup that lined Tyler’s kitchen counter.

My partner, Brittney Willis, and I were set to stay for a week with Tyler and the rest of the Burggraf’s: Henry, Peggy and Tanner. They’re the epitome of nice, Southern folks and have a quaint homestead, nestled into a part of the country ripe with a pastoral aura — chickens, barns and old houses dot the landscape among the gently rolling foothills of the Appalachians. As I looked at the place and soaked it all in, it was easy to remember why Brittney and I were there.

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