Part of the folklore of my family is that my mother grew up in rural Vermont where she ate snow with maple syrup on it. She also tells stories of how food was restricted because of WWII and they had to make do with what they had. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 70′s was very different for me. By the age of 6, I was allowed to go anywhere on the street as long as I didn’t cross the street or go around the corner. I remember that it snowed a lot, but I don’t remember thinking that it looked delicious. Now I am raising my own children in Harlem and they want to eat the snow. Apparently this is an ancient concept: 37 A.D. the emperor of Rome (Nero) sent his servants get snow from mountaintops and then mix it with honey or fruit juices for him to eat.
My first instinct is that city snow must be bad for you. Even little kids know to avoid “yellow snow” and slush. But I have always wondered if fresh snow is clean enough to eat. I found out that even in freshly caught snow, there are definitely some pollutants and bacteria, but there seems to be some disagreement about whether it is safe for kids to eat. According to often referenced, National Snow and Ice Data Center, ” Clean snow is certainly edible. Snow in urban areas may contain pollutants that one should not eat but they would probably be in such low concentrations that it might not matter. Still, eating snow should be restricted to wilderness areas.” Yikes, that is not encouraging for our very urban winter wonderland. Some parents online have tested it themselves such as Alicia Bayer who wrote about the experience on examiner.com. A simple kitchen science experiment with snow:
- Collect samples in clean jars: freshly fallen snow, snow from different locations, tap water
- Pour water through coffee filter or paper towel
- Look at what is in the filter with a magnifying glass or microscope
The idea of eating a snow-based dessert seems magical to me, and I am now awaiting the next major snowfall to test my snow and perhaps try it. If you feel your snow is clean enough to eat, you can make your own snow ice cream!
If you are going to do this, try to get freshly fallen snow – put the bowl out while it is snowing! Mix together the following:
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 gallon of snow
Please let us know if you try the experiment, the ice cream or the maple syrup version. Send us photos and videos!