I’ve been determined to do more foraging this year. Believe it or not, Alaska wilderness has a lot of food to offer, not just ice cubes and snow cones. One of those treats is spruce tips. There’s a fairly short window for foraging spruce tips. I managed to pick a few right at the end of the season.
We have both white and black spruce trees in Alaska, but we only have white spruce on the homestead. Spruce is an amazing tree. The needles, pitch, tips, twigs, and inner bark are all usable. It has many medicinal, cosmetic, food, and more uses. The Boreal Herbal is my go- to book for all the tips and uses of the amazing spruce tree.
Spruce tips are wonderfully high in vitamin C, to the point of being used to ward off scurvy (just ask Captain Cook and his spruce tip beer). When eaten fresh and young, they have a surprising lemony taste with a hint of resin. The best time to pick the light green spruce tips before they start to open, when the brown, thin casing starts to come off. The tips should be tender and very pliable. As they grow and harden, the resin flavor becomes much stronger.
Thanks to this high vitamin C, spruce tips are a great immune booster. Brewed as tea is a very common way to take advantage of this. Since I’d like to have this booster around for the rest of the year. I decided to dry the tips for storage.
Whenever foraging, please be sure to do so in a sustainable way. Don’t pick every spruce tip off the tree. Those tips are the trees new growth for the year. A good rule of thumb is to never forage more than 5% per tree, area, bush, etc.
After removing the brown casings from the tips, I washed them and let them drip dry. I then put them in the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 5 hours. Time may differ for you depending on your area’s humidity. You want the tips to snap when you bend them. Removing all moisture helps to ensure the spruce tips won’t mold. I’m storing mine in a mason jar until I’m ready to make some tea.
Foraging Spruce Tips Tea
In a single serving mug, place about 1 tablespoon of the dried spruce tips (broken up is fine) in a tea ball. Pour lightly boiling water over and allow to steep for 5-14 minutes, depending on your preference for the flavor. I’ll be adding a little bit of local honey to mine too!
I’m hoping to get enough tips next spring to try spruce tip jelly!