Fruits and Nuts

The new parking lot lights at Crossroads are coming on at about 4:15 this week, but the good news is:  this is it! From Thursday on, the days will get incrementally longer. But even knowing that, early darkness is depressing. Perhaps that’s why we crave sweets this time of year.

Christmas cookies, fudge, candy canes, popcorn balls. What’s the attraction of sweets? Could our cravings be some primitive survival urge?           

I happen to think so. We eat because of hunger…..but food does more than fill us. It provides heat and energy, it promotes growth, and it protects against vitamin and mineral deficiencies.          

Early humans, in order to survive and reproduce, must have selected a diet of foods which met their nutritional needs. Certainly, hunter-gatherers knew nothing of vitamins, carbohydrates and calories…….but they craved sweets and fats, and these cravings [dare we call them instincts?] caused people to favor fruits (which are high in carbohydrates and vitamins) and nuts (the richest sources of minerals and B complex vitamins.)

Presumably, our early ancestors who craved sweets, especially at the beginning of winter, survived long enough to produce children who craved sweets. And many, many  generations later, most of us still do.

Certainly wild creatures crave sweets. Think of bears and honey, deer and apples, red squirrels and maple sap.  

Think of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and tropical bats. It’s no coincidence that flowers produce nectar. This sweet liquid lures pollinators to blossoms, ensuring seed production.

 It’s also no coincidence that plants depending on animals for seed dispersal almost always produce fleshy fruit—sweet fleshy fruit. In gathering and eating the sweet fruit, animals inadvertently plant seeds and that results in the perpetuation of the fruit-bearing plants.

If visions of sugarplums dance in our heads—if we crave sweets during this period of meager daylight—-it’s probably nothing to worry about. I’d say it’s perfectly natural.


Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor-supported environmental center made up of The Cove, Big Creek and Ida Bay Preserves. Until snow conditions allow for grooming, all trails in all preserves are open to the public. Once trails are groomed, please follow the signs  designating ski or multi-use trails. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan, is open 2:00-4:00, but will be closed on December 24 and 25.



Thursday, December 21

10:28 Winter Solstice Hike

This hike will begin at the moment the Northern Hemisphere tilts farthest possible from the Sun. It will look no different, but if it is shining, the Sun will be low in the sky. The hike will celebrate not superstitions, but rather, how plants respond to sunlight. About an hour. Free and open to the public. Meet at the Collins Learning Center. 


2:00 Friday Film: Wisconsin Winter from the Air

This Wisconsin Public Television production is the perfect presentation for the first full day of winter. Fly over some of Wisconsin’s most beloved landmarks and travel inside some of the active pastimes that bring us out into the cold to explore. Free and open to the public. Lecture hall of the Collins Learning Center.


Saturday, December 23

10:00 Nature Hike

Outdoor time is important in early winter. Join the naturalist for a tour of the Multi-use trails (which are open for hiking, snowshoeing, and biking throughout the winter) in the Big Creek Preserve. Easy walking but dress for the weather. Meet at the Collins Learning Center.


December 24& 25. The Collins Learning Center closed. Trails and restrooms open

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