Spruce Tips - Another of Nature's Superfoods
In the spring the spruce trees begin to produce new growth at the tips of each branch, in Finland these young shoots are known as Kuusenkerkkä and they are another one of our Natural Superfoods.
For a short time whilst the new tips are bright green, soft and flexible they are edible for humans, giving us an opportunity to take advantage of their abundance of vitamins A & C, anti-oxidants and trace minerals.
The simplest way to use the spruce tips is to make an infusion for a cup of tea but because the season is so short the healing properties of the spruce tips can be utilized for later use by making a syrup. The syrup can be used to relieve aches, stomach problems, rheumatic pain but it is especially useful for relieving chesty conditions by loosening mucus, relieving inflammation and killing bacteria. Some people also believe that it improves circulation.
Spruce Tip syrup
1 ltr spruce tips
2 ltrs spring water
0.5 kg organic sugar
Place the spruce tips and the water into a large saucepan, making sure that the water covers the spruce tips and boil it for about 2 hours, making sure that you don’t lose too much water to evaporation. Sieve it, throw away the spruce tips and keep the liquid. Add the sugar to this liquid and cook it for another hour, making sure that the sugar is all dissolved and the allowing the water to evaporate until a syrup is produced. The syrup is typically a beautiful rusty red colour.
Put the syrup immediately into sterilized jars (I sterilize them with boiling water), be careful not to put hot syrup into cold jars as they will crack, sterilize the jars as you go then they will already be warm enough for the hot syrup.
I usually store my jars on top of the wardrobe or under the bed but always out of direct sunlight.
You don’t have to wait for a cold to use the syrup as it tastes great and makes a wonderful sauce for ice cream or in porridge. The syrup is actually an ingredient in Dr Vogel’s drosinula cough syrup.
I gave lots of syrup to my dad a few years ago when he came to visit and was ill with pneumonia. He’d been travelling across Europe on his own, despite being in his eighties and typically, for him, ignored all the symptoms of being ill. I took him to the hospital where they diagnosed him and gave strong anti-biotics. The main problem was that every time he lay down he started coughing really badly as his chest was full of mucus. It’s hard to get dad to take medicines but when I offered him some delicious syrup made from spruce trees he was very happy and it helped to clear his chest really quickly, enabling him to stay on schedule for his return journey ten days later.
Making the syrup couldn’t be easier. For every litre of spruce tips use double the amount of water and half the amount of sugar.
Spruce Tip Tipple
The spruce tips also make a very refreshing drink which is very simple to make.
4 litres spring water
2 litres spruce tips
0.5 kg organic sugar
25 g citric acid
Put the spruce tips into a large bowl or bucket and pour the boiling water over them.
Add the citric acid and allow the mixture to cool overnight.
Strain the contents and keep the liquid. Add the sugar to the liquid and bring to the boil .
Then allow the beverage to cool and bottle it .
Spruce-tip drink will keep for about 2 weeks in a cold refrigerator.
An infusion of the spruce tips can also be added to your bath or footbath if you are in the sauna.
Remember that you must have the permission of the tree owner before you collect the new growth tips, don’t collect too many from the same tree and leave small trees alone!
Make sure that you know exactly what a spruce tree looks like, not all coniferous trees are the same. Do not confuse it with a yew tree as they are extremely poisonous. If in any doubt, ask an expert or just leave it alone.
Finally, if you don’t have time now but would like to take advantage of the spruce tree’s healing properties during the next winter you can always collect the tips and put them into the freezer.