Last Updated on May 25, 2021
Wondering what to do with those delicious spruce tips you foraged? Here are 25 inspiring spruce tip recipes to make the most of this ephemeral foraged food. Go gather up plenty of spruce tips and get ready to have some fun in the kitchen!
Most of us don’t realize how much free food is growing all around us. Once you start to learn about foraging, you’ll discover that many common edible weeds and trees provide us with lots of delicious ingredients to add to our meals, snacks, and sweets.
Conifer trees are among the most surprising because so few of us have been taught they’re edible, yet they provide so many edible parts, whether it’s the needles in tea, flour made from inner bark, pollen, or in this case, the tender tips of new growth.
If you’re reading this too late in the season to find tender young spruce tips and you didn’t tuck any away in your freezer or refrigerator, you can still make spruce tea, which is a delicious medicinal brew you can forage all year round. It’s rich in vitamin C and is tasty hot or cold, and it’s a terrific cold remedy if you’re dealing with coughs or a respiratory infection. Here’s how to make spruce tea.
FORAGING SPRUCE TIPS
Part of the fun in foraging seasonal foods like spruce tips is finding them at just the right time. And then figuring out how to make the most of them while you’ve got the chance.
Keep an eye out for those first bits of bright green growth at the end of spruce tree branches. Different growing conditions will cause this to happen at slightly different times, so if you’re a little late getting your spruce tips from one tree, you might find less mature ones on a tree in a shadier spot.
You’ll see bright green needles at the end of the darker green branch (or bluish in the case of blue spruce). When you touch the tips, you’ll discover they’re soft and pliable in contrast to the harder, prickly needles of more mature spruce. You may find very small spruce tips, less than an inch long and sometimes still encased in a brown papery wrapping, or later on you’ll see green tips up to two inches long and more unfurled. You’ll often find both on the same tree.
Pick the youngest, smallest spruce tips to get the most tender ingredients for your spruce tip recipes. Larger ones can work in cooked dishes but won’t be great raw.
It’s critical to know you’ve got the correct tree when foraging spruce tips, since some types of conifer are toxic, like the highly poisonous yew. Read more on identifying yew from Eat the Weeds, and always consult a good field guide when foraging a plant for the first time. Here are some of the best foraging books I’ve found.
You can find more on correctly identifying spruce and foraging spruce tips here.
If you want to forage hundreds of plants with greater confidence, consider taking a foraging class, like the Herbal Academy’s online foraging course, to help you master plant identification and wildcrafting practices.
Different trees will have slightly different flavors, so sample tips from a variety of trees and choose your favorites. Some people favor blue spruce, while others prefer white or Norway.
CAUTION: As with all foraged foods you’re trying for the first time, take a small taste to start to check you don’t have a reaction. A small number of people may be allergic to spruce.
PRESERVING SPRUCE TIPS
Because spruce tips aren’t around for very long, if you want to have fun trying different spruce tip recipes, collect a decent amount and store them until they’re needed. Remember not to overharvest any single tree, instead gathering smaller amounts from numerous trees.
Spruce will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for several weeks. You can freeze or dehydrate them if you want to store them longer. Pickling is another option for prolonging the shelf life of your spruce tips (recipes below).
USING SPRUCE TIPS IN RECIPES
If you’ve gathered a lot, you might want to dry some with salt or sugar (recipes below) or pop some in the freezer to enjoy after the spruce tip season has passed.
Spruce tips can be used in so many recipes, from sweets to dinner recipes to cocktails.
I like to use spruce tips on baked salmon, where they add a delicious herb-y flavor.
Chopped and sprinkled on salads they provide some unexpected citrusy notes. I topped my favorite wild rice salad with spruce tips, wild violet flowers, and homegrown chives. So good!
Some other ways to use spruce tips:
- Sprinkle on green or grain salads
- Add chopped spruce tips to homemade vinaigrettes
- Toss into your favorite smoothies
- Add to roasted vegetables, fish, or meat
- Make spruce tip syrup (recipes below) and add to sparkling water or cocktails
- Chop spruce tips and add to baked good like shortbread or scones
Though some people dry spruce tips for later use in tea and homemade cough syrups, I think since mature spruce works for these purposes, it makes more sense to enjoy your spruce tips fresh in spruce tip recipes like the ones below.
Ready to dive into some spruce-y deliciousness? Check out these incredible spruce tip recipes!
Note that when you make spruce tip syrup or vinegar, you get two spruce tip recipes for one. When you strain the spruce tips, keep both the spruce-infused liquid and the tips. Pickled spruce tips can be used as a tasty vegetable or garnish, while sweetened ones can be used in dessert recipes or dried to make spruce tip candy.
SPRUCE TIP RECIPES
Some easy spruce tip recipes to preserve their ephemeral flavor:
♦ One of the simplest ways to enjoy spruce tips in recipes is to make a simple spruce tip sugar for topping sweets or spruce tip salt for flavoring savory dishes. To do this, you can either first dry the spruce tips and then combine with sugar or salt, or combine with sugar or salt first and then dehydrate.
Spruce tip salt or spruce tip sugar instructions: Combine equal parts spruce tips with either sugar or coarse sea salt and pulse in a food processor till chopped fine and uniform. Spread evenly on parchment paper and dehydrate at 140 degrees (or your lowest oven temperature) for a few hours until fully dry. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
♦ Steeping spruce tips in vinegar is a delicious and versatile way to enjoy your spruce tips. Here’s how to make spruce tip vinegar from Bacon is Magic.
♦ The Fermented Foodie uses honey and time to make honey fermented spruce tips.
♦ The Kitchen Frau explains how to make pickled spruce tips.
♦ Spruce tip syrup is one of the most popular ways to use spruce tips. Forager Chef has a recipe for classic spruce tip syrup, which involves several months of steeping, as well as a shortcut version that yields a carmelized spruce tip syrup in a matter of hours. They both sound amazing!
More complex spruce tip recipes:
♦ The Wild Garden makes a gorgeous green dip from spruce tip dip using dandelion-infused vinegar.
♦ Forager Chef features spruce tips in this gorgeous dish of spring vegetables with spruce tips and lemon agrumato and in a Spruce Chocolate Mousse. (Say that five times fast!)
♦ This pilaf with spruce tips from Food 52 looks divine.
♦ Spruce tip ice cream is another popular way to enjoy the flavor of spruce tips. Try Forager Chef’s Spruce Tip Ice Cream or Learning and Yearning’s Spruce Tip Ice Cream. The recipes have some interesting differences. Try both and let me know what you think!
♦ Klaus K combines spruce tips with black currant, mint, rosemary, and lemon balm in his spruce tip herbal liqueur.
♦ Spruce tip candy in birch syrup from First We Eat looks like an unusual way to satisfy a sweet tooth.
♦ Grow Forage Cook Ferment shares a recipe for homemade spruce beer using spruce tips.
If you’re reading this outside spruce tips season, you can brew up some spruce tea with mature spruce you find and save these spruce tip recipes for next season!
Find more incredible ways to make the most of delicious foraged foods all year round by following my Pinterest foraging board. You’ll find information on foraging and using purslane, dandelions, mulberries, violets, creeping Charlie, Virginia waterleaf, elderflowers, honeysuckle, juneberries, and so many more.
What are your favorite spruce tip recipes?
Pin to save these spruce tip recipes for later!
Additional photo credit: Cover photo from Free Photos
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.