Does Fall Have a Special Natural Aroma in the Adirondacks?
Since we were kids, we all knew the first signs of fall would appear out of nowhere on a late summer day. Usually, it was the abrupt change to cooler weather where the winds would suddenly reappear from being under the dense blanket of humidity.
And we could tell, though we didn’t want to admit it, the days were getting slightly shorter.
The cap, though, was when you were walking along our nature paths down to our picturesque beach, looking at the full extent of green summer foliage; a battering ram would hit you: a stray, red-orange leaf on the ground.
Fall was on its way.
Then, with this fait accompli in your hand, you searched for other signs, the sun, which had settled on the apex of the St. Regis Mountain range during the summer solstice, literally in the center of the view which frames our beach, had already moved to the head of what we call the “Sleeping Lady,” (do you know why it is called that and its relation to other mountains across the world? Stay tuned!)
But there was something more, something we sensed but thought we were crazy; the air had a different aroma. It felt lighter, breezier, and had a particular smell.
I remember walking through the leaves as a child, having fun kicking up the reddish-orange leaves and thinking it smelled wonderfully sweet or that you could suddenly whiff the white pine-scented needles, the cedar, balsam, and the birches which make Chaga tea. It was like nature had lifted, perhaps making one last dance before the snow blanketed its restlessness.
And indeed, scientifically, I discovered that the fall air does have a unique ambiance.
According to The Weather Network.com, in the article “The Science Behind the Smell of Fall,” it is a combination of “chemistry, biology, psychology and a little bit of nostalgia.” The article states, "The dominant earthy smells of fall are largely the product of plants hunkering down for winter. Fallen leaves begin to decay, and their sugars and organic compounds in the leaf break down, creating the classic musky-sweet smell of a leaf pile”.
Others point out that it is easier to pick out aromas when the air gets cooler, drier, and less dense than in summer. There may be more in the summer with growing flowers, plants, and trees, but it is harder to differentiate. They claim that each season has its particular fragrance.
And, of course, you have harvest aromas in the fall. Apples and pumpkins for crisp apple pie and soft pumpkin bread, sugary blueberries, ripe tomatoes, buttery corn, and peppers fill the fall air with sweetness and spice, surrounded by the smoky aromas of campfires.
It got me thinking about why our area became known as the ‘Healing Woods” during the Cure Cottage days. The common belief was that only the crisp Adirondack mountain air helped those seeking the cure from tuberculosis, but it was also what was in the air and the tonics you make from them. The Native Americans here made white pine tea; you can make chaga tea from birch trees and think of the incredibly comforting aromas of balsam pillows. You can find it all right here and so much more to invigorate the senses from the staleness of computers and electronic life.
Yes, it is no wonder we often say to our guests here at the Lake Clear Lodge & Resort you need only to stop and smell the air to rejuvenate.
Now, I know that every season here in the Adirondacks does that ….in a unique and memorable way.
White Pine Mint Tea
- Approx 2 cups of white pine needles
- Approx 1/4 cup mint leaves
- Approx 5 cups of water
The Adirondack white pine tree offers a wealth of health year-round. Just thank a pine tree for a handful of pine needles and then go and make some tea!
You can clip them up or gently toss them into a pot of simmering water. Add some mint from the garden (or a tea bag) and simmer gently.
I usually use a ratio of ¾ needles to ¼ mint leaves - then simmer to make it “light” or more concentrated. Add some honey or maple syrup for a little sweetener, and voila! You have the most refreshing tea that is great for the respiratory system—the best thing to do as we go into fall and winter.
Pine tea offers a vitamin C and A boost and is good for the respiratory system. Apparently, Taoist priests drank pine needle tea to help them live longer. Research shows that pine needle tea can actually help slow the aging process!
Want to know about the "honey number?" Inquire about my Cosmic Kitchen "energetic recipes" within my Nutritional Energetics program.