Go on any walk or hike during spring and you will start to notice small light-green tips on the conifers. These are spruce tips, the new tree growth which are edible and delicious.
What Are Spruce Tips?
Spruce tips are the fresh spring growth found on particular evergreen trees called spruce, pine, or fir. You can spot them at the end of the spruce branches. They are bright green in colour and stand apart from the dark green needles of the older branches.
Different Spruce Tree Species
There are a number of different species in this tree family and as you might expect, the needles of each have a different taste. It’s important to know that no species of spruce is poisonous so you can rest easy and nibble on tips till you find your favourite species. The Forager Chef recommends White Spruce, Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce as by far his favourites types to cook with. So why not try them first? After all, he is an expert in cooking with wild food.
When To Harvest Spruce Tips
If you are thinking of foraging spruce tips it’s important not to pick too many from a single tree, as you’re removing the new growth. Try to forage from older, stronger trees where possible. Harvesting Fir tips is one of the most sustainable and delicious activities you can do in spring. Have your container at the ready (you may even need a bucket for big trips). It can get very prickly at times so you might consider wearing gardening gloves, or get used to a few stings every now and again. A very small price to pay for how good these are. Top Tip: Try to discard the the brown, paper-like casings before you pluck tips from the branch.
The Benefits of Spruce Tips
Traditionally boiled in water to make tea, the tips of spruce are high in Vitamin C and have long been used as a herbal remedy to help with flu symptoms like coughs or a sore throat. Additional nutrients found in every single tree are
- Carotenoids: Enhance the immune system
- Potassium: Good for the muscles and the nervous system
- Magnesium: Helps to regulate blood pressure and strengthen bones
- Chlorophyll: Stimulates the immune system
Who knew that one of nature’s best immune fighters was hidden in fir trees and could be foraged for free? Luckily, more people than ever are relearning this forgotten traditional knowledge.
Spruce Tip Recipes
The season is short to eat fresh spruce tips so why not try using them in wild food recipes or preserves? We have gathered some of our own ideas and recommendation form other articles to try spark your imagination and stock up your pantry.
- Spruce Tip Syrup: Try this recipe from The Forager Chef where he infuses the needles in a simple syrup.
- Spruce Tip Cookies: The backyard forager recommends cookie lovers try a quick and easy shortbread cookie recipe.
- Spruce Beer: Grow Forage Cook Ferment has a great spruce beer recipe worth trying.
- Spruce Salt: Upgrade your salt with this idea from Edible Alaska.
- Candied Spruce Tips: Another recipe rom Lauri Constantino teaches you how to candy the tips.
When cooked, spruce needles turn brown and change flavour which is unappealing to most people. So using them raw in dishes or preserving them is great way to extend spruce tip season.
If preserves are too much to take on you can easily season pastas, soups, deserts and salads by sprinkling a few dried or fresh needles on them.
Remember to tag @GoGatherWild in your foraging pictures on social media.