Spring Foraging: How To Utilize Spruce Tips

For a fleeting few weeks each spring, new growth appears on the tips of spruce trees. The tips differ from the sharp needles that occur on old growth; they are bright green, and soft to the touch. Spruce tips are plentiful, but as they are the regrowth on trees they should be harvested with care from mature trees. If there’s only three new tips on a branch, I like to take only one. If you’re looking for easy ideas on how to utilize spruce tips, read on.

Spruce tips. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Basket of spruce tips. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Spruce Tip Jelly

Spruce tip jelly. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Fresh and citrusy, this jelly will make itself a staple in your pantry. Use it as a glaze on wild game, or on a cracker with some goat cheese. To make, you will need:

  • 4 cups of spruce tips, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp low-sugar pectin
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Take your freshly chopped spruce tips and rinse with cold water. Finely chop the spruce tips and place in a saucepan. Add the water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature. Strain through a cheesecloth to remove any bits of spruce tips – you should end up with one cup of liquid less than what you started with.

Chopped spruce. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Pour the liquid into another saucepan and add the lemon juice and pectin, stir, then bring to a boil. Once at a rapid boil for one minute, add the sugar and bring back to a boil for two more minutes, while stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

If you plan on using soon, you can pour into jars and let cool before storing in the fridge for a couple of months. If you would like the jelly to be shelf stable, follow proper water bath canning procedures.

Spruce Salt

Spruce tip salt. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Flavoured salts are an easy way to preserve the essence of spring and are a simple way to add a burst of flavour to your cooking. Spruce salt is easy to make, all you need is two ingredients! At a one to one ratio, combine coarse salt with finely chopped spruce tips. Mix together and spread out on plate or baking pan. Leave to air dry on your counter for several days – the mixture will turn from moist to dry. Once dried, put into a food processor and grind together to finely combine. The salt may be a bit clumpy at first but will soon separate.

Spruce Tip-Infused Vinegar

Spruce infused vinegar. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Another two-ingredient way to preserve the flavour of spruce tips, simply place spruce tips into a jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. Leave in a dark place to infuse for several weeks, and strain when ready to use. When the infused vinegar is combined with oil it makes a delicious base for a salad dressing.