Before the great thaw begins, save as much snow as you can – eating it can be good for you.
As child labour goes, it's hardly like being shoved up a chimney. But in between hurling snowballs and apparently competing to make the most lopsided, physically handicapped snowman, my children were put to work in the fields yesterday.
We might be approaching the "hungry gap", the early spring months when nothing much edible grows, but this week most of us have been surrounded by one of nature's most bountiful fruits: snow. Before the great thaw begins, it's time to get harvesting. The savvy gastronome will already have plenty of recipes for snow – marshmallow snowmen, snow biscuits and, of course, snow ice-cream. And if bars serve snowballs, why not make a real snow cocktail?
But all of this is merely icing on the cake. The real use for snow is as naturally filtered and chilled drinking water. We profess to be green and recycle everything from cars to cornflake packets, yet are only too delighted to watch huge quantities of the cold stuff melt. Why? Many experts believe it is far purer than water from tap or bottle; it is readily available; and it's free.
Just as mineral water became an 80s status symbol, in America swish restaurants are already serving rainwater, as it said to be softer than tap, while fashionistas sip bottles of the stuff. In Britain, too, a small but growing band of eco-worriers is buying the kit – cost: £400 – that is required to collect enough drizzle, hail and snowflakes to keep a household in water. After all, no matter how squeezed we are for liquid cash, rain is one commodity we Brits will never lack. Hey, Manchester could make an industry out of the stuff.
But is it actually good for you? The latest issue of Psychologies Magazine – the women's wellbeing magazine that, according to the tagline, helps you "make sense of your world" – reports that rainwater's "slightly acidic chemistry may assist kidney function and remove toxins, alleviating arthritis and gallstones". It also suggests it can protect us from stomach upsets, citing a University of Western Australia study that found children who drank rainwater were less likely to contract gastroenteritis.