Why does citrus go so well with winter?

We finally have snow. I’ve been making hot spiced recipes. Rich flavor a like coconut and milk are great, but I usually add some kick to it, like lemon or spices. So many winter recipes center around citrus. I began to wonder why.

There is plenty of it in nature; many conifer needles, steeped as tea can give a citrusy drink loaded with vitamin C. In fact the origin of the word citrus is thuja, a cedar-like conifer. Fir and spruce needles smell of tangerine and spices, so the theme continues with conifers. Though this doesn’t explain the trend of making citrus drinks.

Among the bright red berries that survive winter, most are plentiful in that citrus flavor, though I suggest caution, as many are poisonous. One blog called Wild Drinks has a wicked recipe for hackberry milk. Sometimes called sugarberry, they’re a valued food for both birds and humans. Though it’s found in the south, the berries sometimes last into midwinter.

I guess I don’t really know the answer, but it could have been passed along by our ancestors as a way to find vitamin C during the winter.




Making igloos

How did I miss this? A book on DIY igloos, and other snow shelters. Done right, these shelters are warm and sturdy. They have real potential in survival situations. The author also talks about spruce traps, which in the deep snow can be a true hazard. The trees spread snow away from its trunk, forming a well of snow (up to 20 feet deep)! It doesn’t look any deeper than the surrounding snow and hikers can end up over their heads in snow.

I’ve encountered these; most of them were pretty shallow. But it’s easy to panic; if you’re wearing snowshoes, the worst thing you can do is try to walk. The snow just gets heavier on your feet. You’re supposed to gradually dig out using your arms, from the top down. (That’s not complete advice – see here before attempting). I was usually wearing boots, which are simply removed from your feet so you’re left with soaking wet socks. It’s real fun.

On the blogosphere, it seems those blessed recent with snow are making their own igloos. However, I’m pretty sure any expert will tell you that simpler snow shelters are better. Because you expend one hell of a lot of energy making an igloo. Unless you have water and food, don’t wear yourself out.

On the simple side, a family made one as a fun project for their kids. It looks nice, and it sounds easy enough. To give you an idea though, it took them 4 hours and they didn’t really complete it. But, they emphasized, that was with hot chocolate breaks!

They learned some great lessons, such as don’t use white buckets. Of course there are more precise methods that take much longer. Then you get to decorate the place. I’d recommend clementine or ice candles.





The treat of Snow

Aspen looks beautiful right now. There’s something magical about a steady, falling snow. On the X-games, we watched snowboarders and skiers risk their lives when their already hard task was made impossible in blinding, heavy snowfall. When I’m out running in the freezing cold, the sight of snow offers a sort of visual warmth.

It’s also quiet. An acoustics professor pointed out that snow has the same properties as some foam and insulation – it has a .06 absorbing range (that’s good) and so it’s not your imagination – snowy days really are more peaceful.

Spectacular conifer forests out West only add to this. White fir, sugar pine, a treat for the senses as they bring us life all winter. They provide shelter and food, and you can even identify them by the scent of crushed needles. Running through conifer forests in the winter is a treat.

Snowpack has been called nature’s igloo, as it provides a shelter zone for small creatures where it’s actually warmer than above ground. They must have had it in abundance this year out West.




A tea in Bhutan

I’m trying a new sweet tea drink called a Naja. I was tempted by this recipe while reading about Bhutan. Loose leaf black tea, powdered milk, ginger and cinnamon. Monks usually drink buttered tea, but it doesn’t have the same appeal.

Now I just have to imagine alpine hills, monasteries. Red rice and chili, hot stone baths. Bhutan, from the outside, sounds like a paradise.

While most countries are quibbling over carbon points, Bhutan is well on its way to being carbon negative. Decisions are driven by their National Happiness Index; measuring success with spiritual values instead of money. And wisely, they decided being green was a huge goal.

This is an isolated country, but it also hasn’t allowed itself to be swallowed up by China. And while their human rights record has come under question, at least small farmers and tour guides have lived well under this model.

Like other small self-sufficient nations, Bhutan has a stake in keeping their ecosystems healthy. Himalayan mountain snow feeds their vast forests. Cool mountain tops store snow which feed streams. Temperate elevations regulate local climates. Agroforestry grown cardamom preserves soil, water and nutrients which protects the mountain ecosystems.

Produce is set to be 100% organic. They combine wild edibles with cultivated food sold at markets. The country didn’t have television until 1999. Wasting nothing, they use “weeds” as fodder to feed their yaks.




Warm drinks and koselig

I found a crazy website that proposes warming winter drinks. Something to do with coconut milk, turmeric, lemon and cayenne. Sounds good for our first snow and I will surely jog in it. I’m not sure why the media thinks New Englanders celebrate the lack of snow. I don’t, nor do the ski areas.

I found reassurance that our region will have future snow. Average snowfall rates may drop, but blizzards will still occur especially at higher elevations. NOAA has a good page about “pockets of cold”. It explains how the planet can have cold corners. These are the places where Republicans gather to leap up and down yelling about hoaxes.

When we’re just below the freezing point, says the MIT study, this is when extreme snowfall is likely to occur – and it’s one of the few phenomenon that isn’t obliterated by global warming. So party on, snow lovers! This is the Northeast.

One researcher visiting Norway created a very neat tool as a winter happiness index. One region even has a name for being cozy in the winter – koselig. Maybe this research can get everyone on board for enjoying winter.




The Freezeway is OPEN!

You guys, look! This is the Freezeway – a student in Canada had the brilliant idea to turn their bike trail into a long skating rink. The project is a thing of beauty, first of all. It’s clean and crisp, an a joy to look at.

The frozen corridor is 11 km long, and the path itself could be used by residents heading to work via bike or on foot. The city thought they could flood the path by emptying hydrants, that would inevitably ice over since the average midwinter temperature there is 9F.

Besides being a gorgeous sight, I think this signals a new era where we fight environmental ills using nothing but our minds, and nature’s gifts such as ice and cold. As he says, to connect people with their landscapes.

Winter running high

I was running on Friday, and was waiting for some lab work. After my run, I found out the lab had the report but was closing soon. I wish I could say that I didn’t want to show up there sweaty, my hair a mess and in my tight lycra pants. But the truth is, I did show up like that. And I didn’t regret it. My boyfriend said I look cute after I run, and I smell like the outdoors.

A writer / fellow runner wrote an article about how she was “sweat shamed” at a Starbucks. That someone made a comment to her in a café when she showed up, as she put it, sweating and glowing like a nuclear reactor.

I’d argue women should do it more often. Anyone in love with the runner’s high will knows that it can’t be helped. And the world is SO much easier to deal with, when I’m high on those endorphins. But it’s also lovely to meet runners who are in their best mood of the day.

It’s an activity that gets people outside and observing nature, willing to protect the spaces where they run and probably get to observe the workings of nature much more than the average person.


An Athletic woman jogging in the winter.

Winter coconut and spices

My favorite new recipe for winter is any drink with coconut, turmeric and ginger. Maybe I should start with the warm winter version. Kitchn has a tea that you can make with the fresh ingredients, which sounds great for a cold.

The one I like is called turmeric milk. It’s just warm coconut, turmeric, ginger and whatever else you think would taste good with it. Savory and spicy. Not much of a dessert like my favorite salep, but it’s a nice alternative to coffee.

Shade coffee farms grow spices and coconut palms can grow as a polyculture so this is potentially a very eco-friendly drink. You can make your own coconut milk by pureeing one cup of dried coconut with 4 cups of water and put it through a strainer.




A freezing stroll

Amid the trends for 2016 is one to adopt a “mantra” instead of a resolution. I have no clue what mine would be, but I did find an author who might inspire my thinking this year – Alys Folwer. She often talks about walks on cold, stormy winter days.

The reward of sunshine and clear air is often enough for me. Alys points out the “added hedonism” the shock that icy air gives you, if you’re into that type of thing (I am). It’s only extreme for about 10 minutes anyway, especially if you’re a runner.

After that one hardly notices the cold, and you’re wrapped in a white snowy world. The quiet, the crunch of the snow under your best winter boots. As she points out – it’s a different world. Sound is amplified, trees are more pronounced. I often find it more striking than Spring.

There’s also winter scents – if you know where to look. where she is, anyway, there are ice flowers that smell like allspice. Another plant called dawn has “sugared notes” and pink flowers. Winter is prefect, she says, to imagining and wondering.

Then there is the reward of going inside to a hot anise tea or a mug of cocoa. Could it be nearly as enjoyable before the winter walk?




Winter Fiction 2016

I’m still on the lookout for new winter fiction. I started this one before Solstice and am not too far into it yet. It’s about a vaguely Timelord race of people (and as far as I can tell, everyone can live to be 800 or so years old) who’s living in a time when information is the currency. I’m enjoying it so far. Any other recommendations?




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