Have you ever hugged a tree? Perhaps you were hiking in rainforest and right on the trail stood the most magnificent tree. You couldn’t help yourself and felt great joy hugging that big beauty. Perhaps you’re thinking I’m a bit out-of-tune and wondering if people actually hug trees (yes, there are many of us!!). Maybe you’re not a tree-hugger but like to admire trees from a distance. Tiny buds in the spring which burst into leaves overnight. The feeling of walking down a tree lined path in the park with giant branches providing shade from the glaring sunlight. The autumnal foliage we’re experiencing right now.
Autumn is a wonderful time to discuss trees. Many go out in a blaze of glory before settling into dormancy for the cold months. Social media is full of eye-catching photos of the extensive range of fall foliage. I recently finished reading The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. I cannot stop thinking about it. Indeed, Wohlleben encourages readers to get out of their comfy armchair and into the forest to test the facts he so clearly lays out. I now have different feelings towards the little tree that my family and I planted in the front of the yard this past spring. It is not part of the secret underground social network that forest trees are members of. The life of a “street tree” as Wohlleben phrases it, is a lonely one.
The book spells out some things that perhaps we have known all along: that trees feel and operate in a community. Their forest interdependence makes them all stronger and more able to bear the burden of storms, invaders and illness. However, to reach this social complexity, trees must be permitted to grow old. After his experience as a forester, Wohlleben is a great supporter and advocate for old growth forests. Here is a quote that he gave to The Guardian that will make you rethink everything you knew or though you knew about trees: “The thing that surprised me most is how social trees are. I stumbled over an old stump one day and saw that it was still living although it was 400 or 500 years old, without any green leaf. Every living being needs nutrition. The only explanation was that it was supported by the neighbour trees via the roots with a sugar solution. As a forester, I learned that trees are competitors that struggle against each other, for light, for space, and there I saw that it’s just vice versa. Trees are very interested in keeping every member of this community alive”.
The book is very reader friendly for one that is packed with scientific evidence. I do recommend it for those who feel a strong connection with nature or want to spark that connection. After reading it, perhaps you’ll just walk right outside and hug the closet tree that you can find.
These carrot muffins are refined sugar free and nut fee. I created them to pack in my daughter’s lunch as her afternoon snack. Schools and daycares in this city must be completely nut and peanut free (some also have strict rules around providing milk and milk products) given the risk of anaphylaxis. They make for the perfect snack as they are sweetened with maple syrup and honey plus a little bit of spice to jazz them up.
Carrot Muffins (Refined sugar and nut free)
Makes: 12-16 muffins
Time: Prep time (25 minutes) + Baking time (25 minutes)
3 cups (270 g) carrot, grated
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup (190 g) sunflower oil
2/3 cup (20 0g) maple syrup
1/4 cup (75 g) runny honey
1 1/2 cups (210 g) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a standard muffin tin with papers or grease the wells.
2. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vanilla, olive oil, maple syrup and honey. Add the grated carrots, mix and set aside.
3. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the wet mixture. Stir until just combined. Evenly transfer the batter into the prepared muffin cups. I used tall muffin liners which led to 12 large muffins. If you are using smaller/shorter muffin liners, I recommend baking these in two batches. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Enjoy fresh out of the oven for breakfast (pair with apples or pomegranate) or as an afternoon snack.
Adapted from A Pinch of Yum.