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Spruce Tips

I mentioned spruce tips briefly in a previous post about wild edibles, but now that they're here and I have been having such a blast with these light, citrusey delicacies, I thought it would be worth sharing some fun recipes and ideas.

High in vitamin C, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and minerals like potassium and magnesium, spruce tips are definitely worth adding to your diet. They can also help with sore throats and coughs when brewed in tea, and they're fun and easy for all ages to harvest, even very little people. Although they are mostly gone in town now, there are more than you could ever eat up higher - try Highland, the ridge, Ohlson Mountain, etc. and remember to pick responsibly!

Harvest spruce tops right after they come out of their brown paper tips because this is when they are the most tender. If you are a little late, but the tips are still very green and very tender, they'll still work!

Pick some to use now. Grind these up in the food processor and keep them covered in the fridge - you will be surprised how many uses you will find for them!

Then pick some more to store whole and use later in tea and winter recipes; either keep these in the freezer or dry them out in the fruit dryer.

Once you get your bowl of spruce tips in your fridge, you can add them to anything that you might add lemon or lime to.

One of my favorite things to do with them is add about 2 teaspoons of ground spruce tips to our smoothies.

Whole spruce tips are also wonderful for flavoring drinking water and for second-fermenting kombucha, especially when mixed with a little orange juice.

Spruce Tip Condiments

Spruce tips are a yummy addition to nesto and other sauces and salad dressings. You can also make tasty condiments with spruce tips, such as spruce tip mayo, salt, sugar, or vinegar. Making and storing these is a great way to preserve the taste of spring all year long!

Spruce Tip Mayo

Try making a batch of homemade mayonnaise and then spicing it up with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, 1-2 teaspoons of sriracha, and 2-3 teaspoons of ground spruce tips. This mayonnaise is excellent on most types of sandwiches (especially BLTs), in salads such as salmon, carrot, potato, or pasta, and in most any kind of dip - smoked fish, onion, etc. The mayonnaise also makes a great topper for baked salmon or halibut and it is tasty on its own as a dipping sauce for artichokes, grilled mushrooms, shrimp, garlic bread, etc.

Spruce Tip Salt and Sugar

For the salt and sugar, mix equal parts salt or sugar and spruce tips. Stir and leave loosely covered to completely dry out for a few days. You can use these simple spices in any type of recipe. The sugar is wonderful in gingerbread, sugar cookies, and other holiday baking. The salt makes a fantastic addition to any type of seafood, chicken, etc.

Spruce Tip Vinegar

For spruce tip vinegar, mix two parts red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar with one part spruce tips and a few teaspoons of peppercorns. Allow to soak for 10 days and then strain the spruce tips and peppercorns out.

Spruce Tip Syrup, Jelly, and Jam

If you like sweet and savory, you may enjoy spruce tip syrup or jelly. Although very sugary, the syrup is great on pancakes, waffles, or French toast and to flavor cocktails and ice cream. Spruce tip jelly makes a tasty appetizer when served on crackers over cream cheese and is yummy with grilled salmon, lamb or pork. You can also try adding them to your favorite rhubarb jam recipe for a rich, citrusey flavor! Rhubarb spruce tip orange marmalade is fantastic!

Spruce Tip Syrup

Combine equal parts spruce tips, water, and honey or sugar in a heavy saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then allow the syrup to cool completely before straining into a clean jar and storing in the refrigerator.

Spruce Tip Jelly

6 cups water

6 cups spruce tips

2 cups organic cane sugar

1/4 cup honey (optional for flavor)

5 teaspoons Pomona's pectin and 5 teaspoons calcium water

1/2 cup lemon juice (to balance acidity for safe canning)

Chop the spruce tips and boil with the water for 5-10 minutes. Allow the spruce tips to marinate in the water for at least until the water reaches room temperature. The longer you allow the spruce tips to sit, the richer the flavor will be.

Strain out and discard the spruce tips. Put the flavored water back in the saucepan and add the lemon and calcium water. While this is coming to a boil, mix the Pomona's pectin into the sugar and whisk well.

Add this to the boiling spruce tip/lemon water and stir so that the sugar and pectin does not clump. Continue stirring until the mixture returns to a boil, then allow to boil for 1 minute.

Next, turn the heat on low and use a ladle to spoon the jelly into a measuring cup or other cup with a spout. Pour the jelly from this spout into the warm, clean mason jars. (If you have a fancy jar funnel, use that instead!). Use a rubber spatula to remove air bubbles, and then clean the rims with a damp cloth. Place the lids on the jars, and screw the bands on.

Now it is time to seal the jars. Fill a large pot with water (I use my pressure canner). Stack the jars on top of the jar rack. Bring the water to a boil. Please note that this takes awhile! Plan on at least an hour. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, start the timer for 10 minutes processing time. Once the jars are done processing, turn off the burner and wait for them to cool.

After you remove them from the water, wait 12-24 hours to check the seals, as the sealing process will continue even after you have turned off the burner. If after 12-24 hours you have a jar or two that have not sealed, you can eat those first, or you can reprocess them so that they do seal.

Spruce Tip Sweets

Spruce tips are also awesome when added to your favorite scone, poundcake, or shortbread recipe. Here's one last tasty dessert recipe to round out this post!

Spruce Shortbread

1/4 cup chopped spruce tips

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 300° F. Combine spruce tips and sugar and mix well, then add the flour slowly, stirring as you add.

Cut in the butter like you would in a pie crust and mix just long enough that it can be rolled out like scones with a lightly floured rolling pin. Avoid over-processing the dough so the cookies will maintain intact as they bake.

You can cut them out with a cookie cutter or slice them into triangles. Prick each cookie a few times with a fork, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy all your tasty spruce tip creations!

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