Ok, I’m dating myself, for those who remember the old Grape Nuts commercial eons ago, but I am a big fan of Euell Gibbons. While I have eaten from pine and spruce trees, I have never preserved that lovely flavor of winter to enjoy year round. There is a small window to harvest the new growth, and here, the time is now.
I got the inspiration from the amazing forager Hilda, from Along the Grapevine, and here is her informative post Tips on Spruce.
The flavor of these tender tips is a very light citrus with a hint of wintery resin. Of course eating a handful at one time might be a bit much, but it is fun to nibble on freshly gathered food from the wild.
Distracted by lovely blue flax and other wild flowers.
And the fragrance from the blooming sagebrush is so sweet!
I gather the spruce tips in a ziplock bag and almost have enough.
Spread them out and pick through to remove any bits of the brown covering, or…
I did not want to dehydrate them and lose the moisture and fragrance, as the most amazing thing about them is their tender softness. For one of the half pint jars I made a Spruce Salt, which is just the spruce tips and Real salt (Redmond). Pack the tips in tightly and pour in the salt, shake around, and pour in as much as you can. I wanted to leave the tips whole as opposed to processing them in a food processor as they will be easy to crumble when dry and will retain their shape.
As time goes on and the salt absorbs all the moisture, taking on the subtle wintery flavor, keep shaking the jar from time to time to make sure everything is covered.
The other half pint jar I fermented them with a teaspoon of Real salt, half kefir whey and half filtered water. When you ferment like this you can leave it on the counter for a few days to get the ferment going (especially if you only use salt and water) but with the living kefir whey it will ferment fast enough in the refrigerator. I will use this for spruce cheese.
For the last pint jar I packed in as many tips as possible and added good olive oil. This will infuse the oil with the spruce flavor and the tips I can use for mayonnaise or aoli, topping goat cheese tarts, and for spruce hummus…
If your season to gather these lovely soft tips has past, keep it in mind for next year, get out into nature and have some fun!