This year we are harvesting spruce tips and drying them for later use. Spruce tips are wonderfully high in vitamin C and can be made into a tea to use for chest congestion and an immune boost. Spruce also has antiseptic properties that can help with pneumonia, croup, and whopping cough. It has been used for years to soothe coughs and sore throats and to alleviate lung congestion. A great reference for anyone wanting to know more about wild food and medicinal plants should check out Boreal Herbal Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North.
There are a variety of spruce tip recipes out there, but I have yet to try any. I am thinking I may try some spruce tip shortbread and possibly some ice cream this year. I will keep you updated on that.
What you Want
When harvesting spruce tips you are looking for the bright green tips before they start to open, when the brown casing starts to come off. The tips should be tender and very pliable. They will have a fresh flavor with hints of citrus. These usually happen in late spring early summer, but will vary depending on location and temperatures. For my area and altitude June is our golden month.
These tips are the new growth for the tree so you need to be sure not to take too many from any one branch or tree. A good rule of thumb is no more than 1 tip per branch. Don’t worry there will still be plenty for you to choose from!
How to Dry the Tips
Once I collect my tips I bring them inside (after some oh so pretty photos of course) then remove any brown casings there may be. I then rinse them and let them drip dry. Once they are totally dry I put them in my Food Dehydrator and dry them for about 4-5 hours at roughly 125-135 degrees. Your time will differ, just be sure to check them after a couple hours. You are wanting the tips dry enough they will snap when you bend them. If you don’t remove all the moisture they may mold while being stored, which of course is no good. I store mine in an airtight storage Jar like this one. A canning jar works great as well.
How to Make Tea
We harvest our tips in order to make tea during the winter months when congestion and colds happen. It is super easy to make tea. Just take 1 tsp of dried tips to 1 cup of water. If you are using fresh tips you will want to increase the tips to 1 TBSP. You can then put your tips in water and bring the water up to a slow boil or you can add boiled water to the tips and let steep for anywhere from 4-15 minutes. You will notice the tips turning a pale yellow color. When finished steeping strain the tips out. (A Tea Ball Strainer works just as well to use.) At this point you can add a bit of local raw honey or maple syrup to taste. Raw honey has numerous health properties itself and is great for sore throats so it would only improve the function of the tea.
Lastly head out and brag to all your friend how you are one with Mother Nature and a badass medicine woman or man!