My son and I had a wonderful day foraging for spruce tips on the small trail behind our property. It was the perfect day, no humidity but still warm and a beautiful breeze. It’s truly a blessing to learn about the wild foods that grow around us and discover ways to enjoy them.
I took the opportunity to teach him about ethical wild harvesting and why we couldn’t take what we needed from only one tree. Instead we wandered for close to an hour, taking a few from each tree we saw. We also got a rock in our shoe and saw a crow. All in all a grand adventure.
Why Spruce Tips
Spruce tips are delicious and packed full of vitamin C. They are also rich in potassium and magnesium, as well as carteonoids. Spruce has been used by the indigenous peoples of Canada (and the United States) to help relieve coughs, colds and sore throats, for longer than we’ve been here! Last but certainly not least, these bright green nutritional powerhouses are also high in chlorophyll.
When You Want to Harvest Them
Truthfully I thought we might be a bit late in our harvesting adventure, but I’ve tested the sugar and its quite lovely. The key is to get them while they still have their papery casing on them. At this point they are soft and tender and have citrus notes along with a hint of resin. Once they start to harden and lose the bright green colour you will want to stop harvesting.
Note: Make sure you try a few first before you harvest cups full, just to make sure you enjoy them and they don’t go to waste. This is a good rule of thumb for any wild harvesting/foraging you may do.
How To Enjoy Them
Due to their citrusy flavour they can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
- Salads, smoothies, blended with mayonnaise, infused vinegar, pickled or infused sugar.
- Dried to make a tea to treat respiratory ailments and sore throats in the winter months
- Dried to preserve as a spice in cooking
- Infuse your drinking water with some tips chopped
What We Did With Them
Spruce Tip Sugar
Remove the paper casing from your spruce tips, wash and pat dry (or let air dry). Using a herb grinder or food processor pulse:
- 1 cup of spruce tips
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- We used organic cane sugar
Pulse until they texture is uniform and spread on a baking tray or pan lined with parchment paper.
Allow to air dry at room temperature, stirring a couple of times daily, until the sugar is completely dry.
Note: The sugar will be really sticky at first but it will dry out. If you find this isn’t working at room temperature you can heat your oven to 150 degrees and dry them for about an hour.
Once the sugar is dry place them back in the food processor and pulse a few times to break up the chunks.
Store in an airtight container. Use the sugar as a sprinkle or shortbread or other baked yummies, flavour your tea or us it to rim your cocktails. I can’t wait to try this in so many different dishes!
Lacto-fermented Spruce Tip Pickles
I’m always looking for reasons to use my Pickle Pipe . It’s been a very welcome addition to my home-cooking/homesteading/herbal medicine making kitchen. While I love pickling using a heated brine and then canning, I love the added benefits of probiotic production you get from lacto-fermenting something.
This recipe is for making one 500 ml jar of lacto-fermented pickled spruce tips.
- Remove the paper casing from the spruce tips, wash and pat dry.
- Fill your jar with spruce tips – about 2 cups worth
- Add 1 tsp of sea salt
- Fill with filtered water
You will need to ensure that your spruce tips stay below the brine. I used sterilized rocks (boiled them for 15 minutes). Some folks use cabbage leaves. I will definitely be purchasing Pickle Pebbles at my first opportunity. If you don’t have a pickle pipe you will need to ensure you “burp” your jar every now and again as fermentation creates gas as a by-product.
Your pickles will take at least 3 days to fully ferment but taste testing is always a fun and good idea. You will need to make sure to keep an eye on your pickles as lacto-fermentation happens faster at warmer temperatures. You will know it’s fermenting because there will be bubbles. Once they are fermented store them in the fridge using a regular canning lid. Enjoy them on their own, blended as a part of salad dressings or mayonnaise. I plan on trying them in lots of dishes and will update this post as I find yummy ways to enjoy them! .
Thanks for joining us on our spruce tip adventure! I’d love to hear about what you do with your spruce tips.
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