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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Muscovite's Winter Wisdom

"Thank god for valenki."


That is what pensioner Nina Markova, 54, has to say about her more than 50 winters in the Russian capital.


Valenki, a typically Russian type of thick, woollen boots, have been a mainstay in Markova's life since she was a child. In fact, she remembers how, as a 7-year-old, they helped her survive an overnight wait outside a food store in sub-freezing temperatures.


Perhaps no one knows better how to deal with Moscow's winter than native Muscovites. And although times have changed, many city residents still prepare for the winter the way they always have.


Stacked on the floor in Markova's small, Moscow apartment are rows upon rows of jars of pickled fruits and vegetables, bags of potatoes and onions, endless jars of jam, and stacks of five-liter glass jars filled with, "compote," a homemade fruit drink.


Markova starts preparing for the winter months six months in advance, in July. That is when she begins her time-consuming annual process of salting and canning food for the coming cold months.


"Cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries," she rattled off, pointing to her winter's supply of homemade jam. Lately, she said, she has been drying both home-grown and forest-picked fresh herbs; dill for winter soups, mint and raspberry leaves for flavoring her black tea.


She wasn't finished. "You want to see my mushrooms?" asked Markova, who spent September gathering wild mushrooms.


Once her food supply has been put in order, Markova sets to work preparing her apartment. She seals the inner pane of her double-pane windows with wide, white masking tape to keep out the cold drafts. Another trick is using a sealant made of newspaper soaked with soapy water, she said.


And once the apartment is winter-ready, it is time for Markova to take care of herself. Although international pharmaceutical companies have flooded Nina's local pharmacy with imported cough drops and head cold medicines, she still prefers home remedies to foreign imports for help in curing winter ailments.


Many Russians use powdered mustard for getting rid of the common cold and its symptoms. When plastered on the chest, for example, mustard reportedly "draws out" the cold-causing micro-organisms from the body. Similarly, donning socks filled with mustard powder before going to bed or soaking your feet in a solution of mustard powder dissolved into water are nationally known herbal remedies believed to be equally effective.


Other remedies include drinking hot milk with either honey, butter or the pig lard known as "sala" or chewing on several cloves of raw garlic before going to bed. For help with respiration problems, steam from boiled, unpeeled, potatoes is considered the best home remedy.


Still, when asked for her ultimate winter words of wisdom, Markova immediately replied: "Go outside."