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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowfall along east coast creating state of emergency.

What can you do with snow to make the best of it?
From ANNE BRAMLEY, NPR in ENN: Environmental News Network

Many people will see the snow currently blanketing much of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard as a nuisance coating sidewalks and roads. Others are celebrating it as an excuse to spend the day swooshing down a hill.

As for me, I like to think of snow as food.

Growing up in Missouri, I consumed as much snow ice cream as possible from November to March. Each time the winter sky let loose, I caught a bowl of fresh flakes. My grandmother mixed raw eggs, cream and sugar and poured it over top.

Snow is one of the first "wild" foods small humans learn to forage. And this time of year it's both free and plentiful to many.

But is snow a magical, local and seasonal specialty, or is it an adventure in extreme eating? As with many wild foods, it can be a bit of both.

I asked Jeff S. Gaffney, a professor of chemistry at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, if we were to package snow and put it on grocery store shelves, what would we have to put on the ingredient list?

"Primarily water," he says, but also "various and sundry things depending on where it [comes from]" — things like sulfates, nitrates, formaldehyde or mercury.

You can make snow cream with freshly fallen snow; milk, cream, or condensed milk; sugar; and vanilla. You can make it even richer with whole raw eggs.

As it falls through the sky, snow, with its intricate latticework, forms a sort of net for catching pollutants that may be in the atmosphere. The most common is black carbon, or soot, released by coal-fired plants and wood-burning stoves.

That's why John Pomeroy, a researcher who studies water resources and climate change at the University of Saskatchewan, suggests it's better to wait until a few hours into the snowfall to gather your fresh catch. Snow acts like a kind of atmospheric "scrubbing brush," he explains. 

The longer the snow falls, the lower the pollution levels in the air, and thus in the snow.

Read more at NPR.