Snow: Delicious or Dangerous?


Snow is one of the first “wild” foods small humans learn to forage. And this time of year it’s both free and plentiful. But is snow a magical, local and seasonal specialty or is it an adventure in extreme eating? (NPR)

Learn more about snow and other piquant precipitation with our encyclopedic entry. (Piquant? Look it up!)

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

"Snow cream" sounds pretty good: snow, cream, sugar, and maybe an egg as a binder. Photograph by Chris Breeze, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0
“Snow cream” sounds pretty good: snow, cream, sugar, and maybe an egg as a binder.
Photograph by Chris Breeze, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Read through the NPR article on “snow cream.” The article says snow is one of the first wild foods small humans (kids? elves? Australopithecines?) learn to forage. What other foods are commonly foraged by humans?
    • Any food that grows in the wild can be foraged. Nuts, berries, wild tubers such as potatoes, grasses such as wild celery, and even honey are often foraged. Sometimes, collecting the eggs of wild animals or shellfish on the seashore is also considered foraging behavior.
    • One of the most lucrative foraging behaviors is mushroom foraging. (In 2007, a 3-pound truffle—a type of fungus related to mushrooms—fetched $330,000.)


  • Why do scientists think “snow cream” might be a little bit dangerous?
    • Snow picks up trace amounts of pollutants in the air. “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.”
    • Snow mixes with dirt before it even hits the ground. “[W]hen [snow] gets within a few meters of the ground, it gets mixed with soil that’s blowing around.”
    • Snow mixes with manure—watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow! “[I]f you’ve just had a load of manure delivered in advance of spring planting and suddenly a blizzard whips through, a strong wind can quickly ruin the fresh snowball you’d planned to devour.”
    • Finally: “‘[N]ever eat snow that’s been plowed’ . . . It’s likely to contain sand and chemicals such as magnesium chloride. ‘All this gets incorporated into the plowed snow and is bad for you.'”


  • One researcher quoted in the NPR article claims that “fresh Arctic snow goes very well with 15-year-old single malt whisky.” What would accompany your fresh (and clean) snow cream?
    • Me? coconut flakes, or tiny chocolate chips, or cinnamon sugar . . .



NPR: Snow Is Delicious. But Is It Dangerous To Eat?

Nat Geo: What is precipitation?

Nat Geo: What is air pollution?

One thought on “Snow: Delicious or Dangerous?

Leave a Reply