Home Agriculture Meet the Virginia Retirees Making Sweet and Smoky Syrup from Fallen Bark

Meet the Virginia Retirees Making Sweet and Smoky Syrup from Fallen Bark


Enter almost any American grocery store and you’re bound to discover a container of maple syrup someplace. Hickory syrup? Not a lot. Maples and hickories comprise a little portion of the around 1,000 native North American tree types, however just the previous is well represented within our contemporary local food culture, regardless of the reality that something healthy and delicious can be gathered from a lot of these native trees.

Joyce and Travis Miller had long lived amongst hickories in the woods of Clarke County, Virginia and had actually retired from their professions before ever tasting hickory syrup. Twelve years ever since, they’ve established their own operation, Falling Bark Farm, and are 2 of simply a couple of hickory syrup manufacturers worldwide today.

This later-in-life undertaking was a natural next chapter for the Millers, who had actually constantly had an interest in feeding themselves from the land through foraging, searching and gardening. Travis had actually operated in the grocery service for 30 years, in addition to in a recovered lumber center, so it wasn’t a substantial leap to making food from trees.

In 2011, having simply gone into retirement however trying to find a method to keep hectic and keep making some type of earnings, Travis and Joyce asked themselves: “What could we require to the farmers market?”

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Joyce and Travis Miller. (Photo thanks to Falling Bark Farm)

They had actually spoken with a next-door neighbor about hickory syrup and, offered their distance to lots of hickory trees, chose to try. The Millers bought 48 empty glass bottles and started investigating the syrup-making procedure, which has roots in Native American cooking and medical practices. (Hickory bark is extremely high in magnesium and has actually been traditionally utilized as a health supplement.)

” When we started, we would enter into the woods ourselves to gather bark,” states Travis. Unlike with maple syrup, where a hole is drilled into a maple tree to extract its sap, hickory syrup is made with the bark of a shagbark hickory tree that is gathered after it has actually been up to the ground. No damage is done to the tree.

To make the syrup, the Millers scrub the gathered bark tidy, then toast it on an open flame grill to improve the taste. Next, they simmer the bark in water on their home cooking area stovetop to make a hickory extract. This is integrated with turbinado sugar and, similar to the making of maple syrup, a hydrometer is utilized to evaluate the syrup’s density and identify its sweet taste.

No ingredients, thickeners or dyes of any kind are included. Falling Bark Farm does, nevertheless, use some naturally seasoned hickory syrups, consisting of a syrup instilled with entire vanilla beans, another aged in bourbon barrels obtained from a close-by distillery and a “Woodland Spice” range made with cinnamon, cardamom, clove and allspice that is specifically popular around the winter season vacations.

” We’re bottling one at a time and whatever’s done by hand,” states Travis, discussing that he and Joyce continue to do whatever themselves, even as business has actually grown to around 3,000 gallons of syrup a year. “It’s a little insane sometimes, however we’re holding it together.”

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The Millers bottle their hickory syrup by hand. ( Photo thanks to Falling Bark Farm)

While the Millers still offer their hickory syrup face to face at about a half lots occasions each year, after their very first year as suppliers at regional farmers markets, they’ve focused mostly on sales through their site and regional organizations.

” The kind of item we have is not like a loaf of bread where you consume it throughout the week or a bottle of red wine that may be shared and ended up in a single sitting. After 4 or 5 weeks at a farmers market, you’ve reached the routine participants and after that the customer requires time to utilize the item,” describes Travis. “We entered doing selective personal labeling for substantial historic places, like Monticello and Mount Vernon. That’s been a huge perk for us due to the fact that it likewise take advantage of tourist, not simply regional customers.”

Demand for Falling Bark Farm’s hickory syrup has actually grown to the point that the Millers are no longer collecting their own bark from simply around their land. “Some of our bark originates from the lumber market, where the log has actually been gathered and, at that point, there isn’t any worth to the bark,” states Travis. “We’re taking a waste item and turning it into something that individuals take pleasure in.”

In this method, the Millers are a midway point in a sustainable system that honors all that the hickory bark needs to use. After they have actually made syrup, they pass along the bark to a regional barbecue service that utilizes it to prepare the smoked foods on their menu.

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The tree’s bark is gathered after it has actually been up to the ground. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Falling Bark Farm’s hickory syrup itself has actually discovered its method onto the menus of lots of dining establishments throughout Virginia and surrounding states, ending up being a star component in a broad series of beverages and meals. With its golden-brown color and thick, slow-pour consistency, hickory syrup is comparable in look to maple syrup and can likewise be utilized as a sweetener in drinks and foods, however it has a fragrance and taste all its own that is earthy and a little smoky with a tip of molasses.

The Millers have actually been shocked by the variety of meals and beverages that clients and customers have actually prepared with their hickory syrup– whatever from mouthwatering meals of grilled salmon and roasted lamb shanks to side meals of baked apples and cast iron frying pan grits with ramps to craft mixed drinks and beers– and by the neighborhood that has actually thrived in addition to their service.

” One of the very best features of making the syrup has actually been all of individuals that we’ve satisfied,” states Joyce. “We’ve been overwhelmed with compassion.”



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