Spruce Tip Harvest and Preparations

I could definitely spend more time learning about trees.  Identification, therapeutic uses and various harvesting methods…  Considering our long and cold winters, and therefore lack of general wildcrafting opportunities and (plant-based) sources in the area, it feels wise to try to be in the know.

Regarding spruce, “Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada” author (MacKinnon) writes that it is one of the top 10 trees used by First Nations.  The tips were apparently chewed to help relieve cough.  Among other preparations and uses, of course, but had this use fully occurred to me early last week, I would have harvested some tips specifically to ease my cough and cold.  I personally try to stick with teas, essential oils, and my own handmade herbal medicines for non-emergency purposes but it’s sad that most of the ingredients used are purchased online.  A focus of mine is to become more accustomed to my surroundings and know how to use them to my benefit.

I am a fan of thewildgarden.ca and followed the author since she wrote on her previous blog, Unstuffed.  She recently discussed spruce tips and shared a general dip idea (http://thewildgarden.ca/spruce-tip-dip/).  It’s both funny and disturbing that the first thought that came to me was that I wished I was at the cottage, where all the spruce trees are.  As though there couldn’t possibly be any spruce trees in town and all I have available to me is an abundance of dandelion greens and flowers, chives, and lilac.

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I was able to collect a few yogourt containers full of spruce tips because my neighbour happens to have a tree in her front yard.  A good reminder that it’s all here around me.  It may not be in the most pristine or otherwise least-polluted area (right near the street for numerous cars to drive by) we can’t always live our ideals.  The fact that it’s right there and as fresh as can be has to count for something.

I meant to pick the tips sooner when they were younger than shown in the photo, but I wasn’t feeling the greatest and also the next fews days were busy, with an even busier weekend…  There is a newfound appreciation that has set in, and confirmation that beings have their many facets.  I never held spruce tips before and they are so soft!  It’s the feeling of walking into a soft moss, but that feeling in the palm of your hands.

I didn’t really pay attention to the walker-bys reactions but my neighbour’s next-door neighbour, I believe she’s German, older though, opened the door and asked if I was going to make syrup.  This woman probably really knew her shit, and I got the impression she may still have a pantry full of homemade preserves…  A woman who really knows her shit, very inspiring!

After browsing some blogs on the internet, I came across a few recipes worth trying.  Born in the Wrong Century shared an easy one, a spruce tip and sea salt blend (http://borninthewrongcentury.com/2011/06/13/playing-with-spruce-tips-sugar-salt-vinegar-oh-my/):

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 {How To} Spruce Tip Flavored Salt or Sugar
Mix equal parts sea salt or organic sugar with finely chopped spruce tips.  Place in a dish and set in a dry area to completely dry out.  Stir every day to check progress and break of clumps, takes approximately 3 days.  Store in a sealed jar. 

I used a fine grey sea salt for mine, and opted to use 2 parts spruce tips to 1 part salt.  The blend is today still in the plate on the counter and I’ve noticed how pleasant the aroma is whenever I walk by.  I’m not necessarily a big user of salt but my partner in an Herbalism swap I participate in likes to be in the kitchen and I felt this would be a suitable gift.  (I do plan on keeping a bit for myself to try too, though!)

Also, I used Food With Legs’ idea for pickled spruce tips (http://www.foodwithlegs.com/pickled-spruce-tips/)!

I used a 50:50 mix of water and rice wine vinegar (for it’s faint sweetness but either apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar would work just as well) to pickle the spruce tips. After being pickled and spending a week in the fridge the spruce tips lost some of their vibrant green (I imagine this is difficult to fix without increasing the pH and negating the preservative effect of acid, right?) but maintained their appealing chew. The flavour is calmer and emphasises the citrus more than the resin.

The pickled spruce tips make an excellent garnish for grilled or roasted white fish, or a variety of egg dishes.

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I’m waiting patiently for this one to be ready!  One jar will be part of my dad’s belated father’s day gift and the rest will be enjoyed with the next few fish we catch.  Something tells me I’ll be adding spices to next year’s batch but that these will be good enough that I should have made more and bothered processing properly.

Finally, I have some 4oz jars of spruce tip jelly sitting on the counter.  Minus one jar, which was given to my neighbour as a thank-you.  I winged a formula for this one.

YIELDS

Approximately 10 4oz jars

INGREDIENTS

– 3 cups Spruce Tips, cleaned and finely chopped

– 3 cups (best-quality possible) water

– 1 lemon, juiced

– 4 cups white granulated sugar

– 1 pouch CERTO liquid pectin

METHOD 

1.  Prepare an infusion by combining the spruce tips and water in a medium-large saucepan and cover with a lid.  Bring the water to a boil then reduce and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your jars (washing and sterilizing).

2.  Strain the infusion (I use a yogourt strainer, it works like a charm!), putting the liquid back into the saucepan and composting the spruce tips.  Add more water to the saucepan if necessary, to maintain the 3 cup amount.

3.  Add the sugar and lemon juice to the liquid and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Stir and boil hard for 1 minute.

4.  Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the CERTO Liquid Pectin.  Keep stirring for approximately 5 minutes, removing any foam at the surface.

5.  Pour the mixture into the prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Stir the contents of each jar to remove air bubbles, clean the rims, cover the jars with the lids, and screw on the rings.  Process the jars for 10 minutes.  Let your jelly stand on the counter, untouched, for a day, then inspect each jar to ensure proper sealing.  Enjoy, gift, or store (remove the rings if storing)!

Note:  The end result is a very pale yellow jelly.

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2 thoughts on “Spruce Tip Harvest and Preparations

  1. Pingback: Spruce Tip Harvest and Preparations | Skipping Stars Productions LLC

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