This time of year the ends of conifer trees have bright green buds of new growth. Spruce tips, in particular, are easy to use. Last year I made spruce tip ice cream, as well as a syrup with honey, spruce salt, and just dried spruce. I was surprised how sweet the dried spruce smelled; I used it to flavour meat.
The smell of spruce has the ability, at any moment, of instantly transporting me back to the mountains of my childhood.
Drinking spruce tea takes me back to sitting in the chilly spring air around a fire. A blackened billy can sits over the fire; the water starts to boil and steam rises up. A handful of spruce tips are tossed in, steeping together with little bits of ash. The bright colour of the tips fades to brown. I cup my hands around a chipped enamel tin cup, when it’s cool enough to handle, breathing in the fragrant rising steam. I sip noisily, trying to drink the tea as hot as possible without burning my lips.
Ironically, there are no wild spruce trees in the part of Slovakia I live in but many planted ones. My foraging wasn’t so wild. But, that makes spruce a great first forage, for those who have yet to try harvesting food from nature, you can just traipse into somebody’s back yard or avail yourself of branches hanging over a fence.
Spruce trees, in general, are the conifer trees with short and sharp needles – they do not make good Christmas trees. Guess how I know. The bark is kind of dry and scaly looking.
The needles are high in vitamin C and can be used in all sorts of things, like adding it to shortbread or ice cream.
Slovaks made a syrup layering spruce tips, lemon, and sugar as a cough and cold remedy. As the layers sit for a number of days, the water seeps out and a syrup results.
Right now though, is just simple Spruce Tip Tea, with either fresh or dried spruce tips. Pour hot water over spruce tips – the more tips the more flavour. Ash in tea is a bonus. Inhale deeply of fragrant steam.
May 23, 2016 @ 16:23:16
Never thought to use the new growth. I am definitely going out and trying this. The cough syrup sounds lovely too!
May 24, 2016 @ 09:52:00
It’s lovely, a little citrusy fresh although as it dries it smells quite sweet. Enjoy!
May 26, 2016 @ 17:25:32
Never thought of that. Mind you, here would have to take train to Formby, the nereast conifer place, in other words, where squirels live, the red ones, I think it must be a sanctuary for the last red squirells, as they are pushed out of the forrested areas by grey ones. We, (my cousins & I) as kids used to gather the cones late summer, as they burn greatly.
But it makes sense, the vit. C content must be high. And the smell forever reminds me of Christmas.
May 26, 2016 @ 22:19:28
Yes, black squirrels even eat the red ones I think.
My husband said that the small of spruce reminds him of Christmas, and they sell spruce Christmas trees here, but I can’t imagine why, they are so prickly! I choose one once as a child, and we were dancing around trying to decorate it without impaling ourselves!
May 29, 2016 @ 16:26:16
I think they treat the needles on Xmas spruce these days, so it lasts …without impaling, otherwise a lot of mess…
Jul 05, 2016 @ 18:11:56
Very interesting. I am not sure if we have the right type of spruce tree here in Northern U.S. I am originally from SA and the north part where we do not have pine trees so I really do not know much about it but this surely sounds lovely. I like the aroma of pine. Thanks for sharing!!! Beautiful clay mug you got in the photo!
Jul 12, 2016 @ 01:06:12
Thank you – the cup is actually from my grandmother in Japan, a special piece to me. You can use any spruce needles, and most but not all pine needles too, although I haven’t actually tried pine.
Jun 23, 2017 @ 01:20:10
I finally collected some spruce tips today! (Also some red raspberry leaves and dandelion leaves, all to dehydrate for winter use.) I checked the spruce trees a month or two ago and there wasn’t new growth yet (our spring was late this year), but they kinda got away on me and the tips aren’t very tender now, but not completely pokey. I plan to try some in honey and dry the rest for making tea and spruce salt!
Jun 29, 2017 @ 10:49:22
This year I got to the spruce kind of late too, still light green but a little harder. Much earlier than yours though!