Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Truth About Grade B

At the Greenmarket today, a woman asked me, as dozens of people do each day, if I had any Grade B maple syrup. She was planning to attempt the infamous Master Cleanse, in which you drink a cocktail made of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne for anywhere from three to ten (or even more) days. You eat nothing else. Most people combine this with "laxative tea," or some other such natural, or unnatural brew. The idea is to remove all the toxins from your body--whatever that means, if that is indeed possible.

At this point in the afternoon, I had only a single half-gallon of our Grade B syrup left. (It is quite popular these days, especially after having been recently featured in Style section of the New York Times.) A half-gallon wasn't enough. She wanted a whole gallon. "Sorry, this is the best I can do," I told her. She complained that she had intentions of starting the cleanse right away.

"You can use the other grades of syrup," I told her. "There really is no difference other than the taste." She made a face. "Grade B has more minerals," she said. "Actually," I tell her, "it doesn't. There is no nutritional difference, only taste and color." Then she had the nerve, the insane, foolish, ignorant nerve to proclaim that "Well, maybe in Western medicine it doesn't, but in ayurvedic medicine it does."

I'm fine with ignorance. People are constantly asking me, genuinely asking me, about the difference between the syrup grades. But ignorance plus stupidity really bothers me. At this point, I put the half gallon of syrup down, "Okay," I said. "This is what I have, and you're welcome to it." What else is there to do, or to say, when someone has made up their mind that you are wrong and whatever cockamamie stuff they read somewhere is ingrained in their brain to the point of no return?

So, for the record, I present:

The Truth About Grade B:

Maple syrup is graded by color and taste only, with the darker syrups having a more pronounced maple flavor than the lighter. One is not better than the other. Think of white wine versus red--both are suited to a person's particular tastes and uses, and neither is better or worse, just different. I like lighter syrups for breakfast things like french toast and waffles, and I prefer a darker syrup for salad dressings and baking. Some people like the opposite.

Take this, for example, from Squidoo, which is factually incorrect: "Grade B maple syrup goes through a special refinement process that keeps the vital nutrients in the syrup. Other grades of syrup don't have these vitamins and minerals." Similar false information is available all over the Internet. As any sugarmaker can tell you, the syrup-making process does not change from one grade to the next. In fact, there is absolutely no refining taking place when you make maple syrup. Step one: Tap the trees. Step two: Collect the sap. Step three: Boil the sap. Step four: Filter the syrup for solids. The only thing you're doing is taking water out of the tree sap via evaporation, and the filtering process is the same thing that happens when you use a coffee filter in the morning--it's not changing the composition of the liquid, but just removing any solid parts.

As a general rule, the darker syrups are made toward the end of the sugaring season, and the lighter syrups are made at the beginning. But maple syrup is an agricultural product, subject to the whims and wonders of nature. Thus, the general rules do not always hold. In 2007, for example, this "light to dark" rule was totally debunked, when the syrup ran back and forth from one grade to the other, finally ending in late April with Fancy grade, the lightest, which is normally made at the very beginning. (If we could double the amount of Grade B syrup we make each year and sell it at the Greenmarket for what you pay in the stores, don't you think we would?)

Lastly, I realize that I don't know anything about ayurvedic medicine--but I'm sure there are no sugar maples growing in India. And I'm sure that glucose, which is the major chemical compound in maple syrup, does what it does in western bodies the same way it does what it does in eastern ones.

So--master cleanse all you like. If you love it, great. If it makes you feel fabulous, great. But get the facts straight. A customer once told me, "I think it's really important to know exactly what's going into your body." I can't agree more.


rachel said...

you go, sister.

sometimes, people who master cleanse need a master something else, too.


rob said...

Oh. Dear. God.

This post made me (and Ted) spit out my coffee and roll on the floor in laughter.

Isn't that the title of a book: A Sugar Maple Grows In India

love you. mean. it.

GJC said...

I already had a poor opinion of "master cleansing" and i already a poor opinion of people who think they know more than Lee.
But now both of those are confirmed.

I also learned something new today. I learned all about grading maple. The joys of the internet! the joys of Lee! I could take all this new knowledge and win on Jeopardy!

Laura A said...

Hey there! I came across your blog while searching up "Grade B Maple Syrup" and you really got me thinking. I was considering taking the Master Cleanse Fast but I wanted to know exactly why I needed those certain ingredients for the procedure. I'm so glad I found your blog, or else I would have probably gone around bothering other people with my stupidity. Hehehe.

Anyway, based on what I've seen on a few sites, I think grade B maple syrup is specified for the Master Cleanse just so that people will avoid "Commercial Grade" syrup (sometimes called "Grade C" but I think that's pretty erroneous info)because of the extra sugar and "chemicals" put into the procedure of making it. The people who made the diet are trying to keep everything organic and stuff and they believe that certain brands of maple syrup have been tampered with, that's why they want people to go looking for syrup that's been labelled "Grade B."


However, taking your arguments into consideration, it could be that a lot of syrups labelled "Grade B" are still Commercial Grade since the grading only refers to the color, and not the procedure by which it was made. This could mean that a lot of people out there are getting cheated.

Well, boohoo for them. They should have done their research. :)

Thank you so much for posting this entry!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the most entertaining and educational post on maple syrup processing. I am doing the Master Cleanse and wanted to investigate the necessity of needing Grade B syrup only.

The problem is people read something, from any source and automatically take it as law without taking personal responsibility through research and investigation. They want someone to tell them something and believe it without any required thinking! Personally, I just didn't want to pay the exorbitant price for grade B syrup!