This wild foraged spruce tip tea is packed with vitamin C and makes a potent cold remedy. Made by brewing fresh or dried spruce needles, spruce tea is a flavorful hot beverage.
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Conifer trees as food
There are many edible foraged needles from Spruce, Fir, and Pine. They have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their medicinal benefits and year-round availability.
What Are Spruce Tips?
Spruce tips also called spruce buds or spruce tops, are the light green tips of spruce branches you see every spring. It is not just their bright green colour that stands out. Spruce buds are tender and packed with golden ingredients. Moreover, spruce tops are easy to pick and can be eaten raw, in syrup, tincture, oil, or tea. People also freeze them or dried them to preserve them for later use.
Spruce Tips Tea Benefits
Young spruce tips are packed with vitamin C, which helps remove toxins from the body by strengthening the immune system. In addition, they contain terpenes called limonene that is not only responsible for their citrusy flavor but also their ability to ease a cough. It helps to dissolve mucus and ease expectoration, chest congestion, and respiratory ailments.
Spruce tips are filled with minerals such as potassium and magnesium and possess antibacterial properties. They help you feel calm, comforted, and energized.
In addition, they are packed with chlorophyll that helps transport oxygen and thus make a good remedy for respiratory issues. Chlorophyll also neutralizes free radicals, maintains a balanced blood sugar level, and speeds up healing.
In Europe, spruce and pine tea have been used for centuries to relieve sore throat and cough. Spruce tips have also found their place among indigenous populations in Alaska, incorporating the green tops in balms, tinctures, and teas for medicinal purposes. Similarly to rosehips, spruce prevent scurvy in survival situations.
How to identify and forage spruce trees?
Spruce botanically belong to the Picea genus from Pinaceae family and is easy to identify.
If it stands alone, you can see its perfect shape, a typical Christmas tree shape. It is the most decorated conifer tree during Christmas time.
The easiest way to identify is to look at its needles. Short and stiff needles that come from a single point are the main characteristic. Moreover, the needles are squared and can be rolled in between the fingers. Pine needles, on the other hand, grow in clusters from a single origin point. Pine tree needles also make excellent pine needle tea.
The most important aspect of foraging and eating wild foods is identifying different species.
If you are not familiar with the identification, I suggest you use this guide on how to identify conifer trees
Are all spruce tops edible?
Spruce is an evergreen conifer, and all kinds of spruce trees are edible, Their easy-to-forage spruce tips have various flavors and aromas. While they stand out with a strong lemony flavor, they sometimes taste bitter and astringent. Some great spruce species for brewing tea are White spruce (Picea glauca) and Norway spruce (Picea babies) or blue spruce (Picea pungens),
When to pick spruce tips
While in the springtime, spruce tops are fresh and tender and make a perfect addition to salads, in winter can provide a burst of energy and ease cough. They are perfect to gather also during the cold winter when other edible and medicinal plants are sparse.
Best harvesting practice is to prune off the ends of twigs or spruce branches when trees start producing new growth. Collect young bright green tips from older trees, leaving young trees to grow. Find spruce that is not close to the highways or busy roads.
Also, I pick only a few tips from various trees, so they have time to recover. Although pruning makes the trees bushy.
Spruce tips have a strong flavor and are a valuable source of vitamin C. Yet, you need just one handful to make aromatic and potent conifer tea for several people.
How to make Spruce tip tea recipe
Once you have your spruce needles harvested, you will need one handful to make this recipe.
To prepare the needles, wash them thoroughly in lukewarm water. Remove the needles off the branches for an even milder tea. The woody branches can add a bitter flavor. Pick any insects that may be hidden in between the needles.
this step is optional however allows better extraction of vitamins and minerals
Place the tips into a blender and give them a quick spin to break them apart.
If you are making this tea in nature, remove the conifer needles from the twigs and rinse them with clear water. Breaking the needles a bit will increase their surface and allow them to release their medicinal properties.
To keep them exceptionally high in vitamin C, It’s important to avoid boiling the spruce directly. Instead, steep the needles as the extreme heat created through boiling will destroy the vitamin C. Bring a pot of water to boil, switch off the heat and place one tablespoon of mashed spruce directly in the pot.
Close the lid and let it steep for at least 10 to 15 minutes. I usually keep it there overnight as longer steeping makes the tea darker and tastier. Longer brews will be stronger flavored, with nice amber color.
Strain the needles through a strainer or a clean coffee filter to remove small pieces, and enjoy your warm cup.
Add a cinnamon stick for extra warming properties. Adjust the flavor with a little raw honey or other sweeteners.
This tea is also perfect to make in nature while on a hiking trip. It warms you up and adds vitamins and minerals. Moreover, it gives you the feeling you are nourished even if you consumed just foraged food.
Spruce tips ice tea
Another way to use it is to infuse tips overnight in a larger batch. You will get strong infused water with an intensive lemon flavor. I like to serve it with lemon and sweeten with this spruce tips syrup. It makes a great refreshing drink
Place 1 cup of clean spruce tops into a glass jar with a lid. Pour over 3 cups of cold water. Ove the jar and let it infuse overnight. Strain it afterward through the cheesecloth or a strainer. I like to serve it with a slice of lemon and a few spruce buds for decoration.
Other Recipe ideas with spruce tips
- Eat them fresh when they are young and tender. You will get most of their benefits.
- Their lemony flavor is great in infused waters. Just add a few spruce buds into a jar with water to infuse. add lemon or other fruits and enjoy
- I like to use them to make this spruce tip syrup. It is a natural remedy that is very effective in easing cough
- this spruce tip tincture is just a keeper.
- Make these Spruce tip shortbread cookies
- I plan to make spruce tip jelly, I think it is a great recipe idea
- Young and crispy and tender and make them great in salads
- In addition to salads, spruce tips can be blanched (and even pickled) to be enjoyed.
- I like to infuse them in oil with other green conifers such as pine to make this conifer oil that is great for winter wellness.
- I use the oil to make a nourishing body butter or sugar scrub.
- add them to this Vitamin C smoothie
Spruce tea has a woodsy aroma and fruity, lemon flavor. They contain terpenes called limonene which is a carrier of their delicious citrusy flavor. It smells like oranges, lemons, and limes. Sometimes they can be slightly bitter but not unpleasant. Depending on the specific spruce species, the tips may also have earthy, warm, piney, or bitter undertones. I find it to be refreshing and relaxing. Also, expect your winter spruce tea to have a more robust flavor and the tea made from green spring tips to be milder in taste.
Spruce needles can be used fresh or dried for tea. To use fresh spruce needles, pluck green needles from the spruce tree and freeze them in freezer bags. You can also dry them for later use by air drying them at room temperature. Once you are sure they are completely dry and all the moisture is gone, you can store them in a dark container. Exposure to the sun can spoil them, so select a dark and dry place. Frozen spruce tips, however, will not have the tender texture of freshly picked tips. They would be great in the tea, ice cream or syrup, though. Spruce tips are full of vitamin C. The best part about the storing is that they maintain high levels of Vitamin C even if you freeze or dry them.