The tips of spruce tree branches are wonderful edibles that, for many of us, are literally at our doorsteps, yet we pass them right by!
Spruce tip season is coming; don’t miss the opportunity to make your own powerful healing syrup or honey. You may have this gem growing in your backyard but, if you don’t, be assured that it pays off to go to a forest. Just take a nice springtime walk, refresh your spirit, and collect the new growth sprouts from a spruce tree. The very young spruce sprouts can be eaten raw or used for garnishing baked meat. Young spruce tips contain large amounts of vitamin C, which removes toxins from the body and strengthens the immune system.
You Can Make Tea, Syrup, Tincture, or Honey
Young spruce sprouts are edible and you can experiment with adding them directly to your meals. For cooking, make sure to use the earliest tips as soon as they begin to emerge from their brown casings – they should still have the small brown husk at the end (which needs to be removed prior to cooking). These tips are perfectly tender with the fresh and light taste of resin and hints of citrus. For syrup, tincture, or honey, the spruce tips no longer need to have the casings at the ends; however, the sprouts still need to be a vivid light green in color and usually not longer than two inches. To preserve the young spruce sprouts for later use, you can also dry or freeze them. Tea made with dried spruce tips is helpful in treating gingivitis. If spruce tips are digested in alcohol, you get a spruce tincture, which is great for the alleviation of joint pain, blood circulation, and warming.
The magic power of the bright green tips has been known for centuries. The secret lies in the content of turpentine, which dissolves phlegm. This relaxes the airways and facilitates expectoration. It also relieves rheumatism, alleviates pain in limbs and muscles, and lessens the inflammation of the tendons.
Time for Homemade Syrup
Spruce tip syrup tastes great and has wide usage in the kitchen. You can use it on pancakes or anywhere you would use maple syrup. It can be included in refreshing drinks and cocktails; it even mixes well with gin.
There are two different ways to prepare the syrup. Either it is cooked or it is mixed with sugar. The uncooked version preserves more of the active substances but it has a shorter shelf life, about five months if kept in the refrigerator.
UNCOOKED SPRUCE TIPS SYRUP
You will need a glass jar and sugar. Use a glass canning jar, the larger the better. A 169 oz (5 liter) jar would be best but you can, of course, use a smaller one for a lesser amount of syrup (the result is usually about a third of the jar volume). Brown sugar is suggested because it is healthier, but the syrup may not last as long as that which is made with plain white granulated sugar.
Rinse the sprouts with cold water and remove any casings, then you will layer the sprouts and sugar. First, place the sprouts in a layer of about 2 inches thick, then add the same amount of a sugar layer. Gently press each layer. Repeat the process until your jar is full. The last layer should be sugar. Cover with plastic foil and tighten firmly. Place the jar on a shelf, preferably in a sunny place. Let it stand for two to three weeks. It will start to form a thick juice, and the sprouts will turn yellowish to brownish. Strain the syrup through a cloth, pour it into bottles, and store it in a cool place. It can be used as prevention and treatment for coughs. Take one tablespoon each morning or use it for flavoring teas or drinks. The syrup has a very pleasant taste and children will love it on pancakes.
COOKED SPRUCE SPROUTS SYRUP
Mix 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water and 2 cups of chopped spruce sprouts.
Put all the ingredients in a cooking pot and slowly bring it all to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, then bring it back to a full boil and pour the syrup into hot sterilized jars. Place the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for long-term storage. Or you can try to turn the canning jars upside down right after you fill them; this way, the lid will firmly adhere and if you leave them upside down for at least 20 minutes, a vacuum will form inside. There’s no need for the hot water bath if you do this inverse canning.
BUSY AS A BEE: MAKE YOUR OWN SPRUCE HONEY
Use young spruce shoots or mix them with fir shoots. Place them in a large bowl or pot. Add enough cold water to barely cover the tips (not too much because they will float), cover with plastic wrap and let it stand for four days in the sun. Then pour the liquid into a cooking pot, add the leaves of wild or garden strawberries, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Finally, drain, mix 1: 1 with granulated sugar, and cook until thick. Fill sterilized jars and close the lids immediately. Eat a few teaspoons a day. Spruce honey facilitates expectoration for severe coughs, catarrh pharyngitis, bronchitis, and flu.