Spruce tips

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Cover Story -

Have you ever drunk spruce tip beer? You may well have be­cause spruce tips have been used in the brew­ing process for hun­dreds of years. Cap­tain Cook made spruce beer in 1773 in or­der to pre­vent scurvy among his crew and is be­lieved to have re­ferred to rimu, kahikatea and matai tips in his recipe.

Both spruce and pine nee­dles con­tain very high lev­els of vi­ta­min C and are ex­cel­lent in herbal teas, although there is some doubt as to how much vi­ta­min C re­mains af­ter the beer-brew­ing and fer­men­ta­tion process. How­ever, spruce tips are still tasty and an ex­cel­lent wild food source.

“Spruce tips are one of the more un­usual, least used, and tasti­est wild ed­i­bles,” says Alaskan-based food writer Lau­rie Con­stantino.

The key to cook­ing with the tips of ever­green trees, says Lau­rie, is to har­vest them when they first be­gin to emerge from their brown, pa­pery cas­ings.

“At this stage, spruce tips are very ten­der and have a fresh flavour that tastes lightly of resin with hints of cit­rus. As spruce tips ma­ture, the resinous as­pect of their flavour in­ten­si­fies. When the spruce tips be­gin to harden, form ac­tual nee­dles and lose their bright spring green colour, I no longer use them for cook­ing.”

De­pend­ing on where you are in the coun­try, the tips will emerge at a dif­fer­ent time (ear­lier in warmer ar­eas, later in cooler re­gions). Watch for the ten­der new growth in spring.

“To har­vest spruce tips, pop the tips off the end of the bough as if you’re pick­ing berries,” says Lau­rie. “When you’re done pick­ing, re­move and dis­card the pa­pery cas­ings, and dis­card any hard stem that may have bro­ken off with the tip. The spruce tips are now ready to use.”

The spruce tips can be used fresh or dried in herbal teas. Lau­rie uses them in var­i­ous other recipes, in­clud­ing may­on­naise, vine­gar and flavoured sugar.

“For cookie-eaters, a good recipe to start with is spruce short­bread – it’s quick, easy to make, and ad­dic­tively good. When baked in short­bread, spruce tips have an al­most fruity flavour, rem­i­nis­cent of rasp­ber­ries.”

Visit Lau­rie’s web­site for the recipe:


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