Spruce Tips Culinary Uses And Harvest

Ever find yourself walking through a forest, inhaling that crisp, piney aroma and thinking, “I wish I could taste this”? Well, guess what? You totally can! Meet the spruce tip, the quirky little secret that’s about to turn your culinary world upside down. Spruce tips are edible tips that you can use in a lot of recipes.

Discover the Spruce Tip: Nature’s Zesty Secret Ingredient

What Are Spruce Tips?

Spruce tips are the bright green, tender new tips/growths at the ends of spruce branches that pop out each spring. They’re like the baby Yoda of the tree world – small, adorable, and packing a surprising punch. These little wonders are bursting with a citrusy, slightly resinous flavor that can add a unique zing to your dishes.

Why Eat Spruce Tips?

Why not? Spruce tips are not only edible but also loaded with vitamin C and have been traditionally used for their medicinal properties. Plus, foraging for them gives you a great excuse to get outside and enjoy nature. But before you start munching on the nearest conifer, make sure you’re picking from the right tree – we’re talking spruce here, not pine or fir!

Culinary Uses Of Spruce Tips in Your Kitchen

Ready to dive into the wild and wonderful world of spruce tips? Here are some fun and quirky ways to incorporate them into your cooking:

  1. Spruce Tip Syrup: Mix water, sugar, and a generous handful of spruce tips. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and you’re left with a fragrant syrup perfect for pancakes, cocktails, or even a splash in your morning tea. Imagine impressing your brunch guests with homemade spruce tip syrup. They’ll be talking about it for weeks!
  2. Spruce Tip Shortbread: Add finely chopped spruce tips to your favorite shortbread recipe. The citrusy notes will elevate these buttery cookies to a whole new level of deliciousness. Serve them at your next tea party and watch your friends’ faces light up with curiosity and delight.
  3. Spruce Tip-Infused Vinegar: Steep spruce tips in white wine or apple cider vinegar to create a flavorful vinegar. Use this vinegar in salad dressings, marinades, or as a tangy addition to sauces and glazes.
  4. Spruce Tip Pickles: Pickling isn’t just for cucumbers! Spruce tips can be pickled in a vinegar brine with spices. They make a crunchy, tangy addition to salads, sandwiches, or charcuterie boards. Plus, they add a pop of unexpected color and flavor – conversation starters for sure!
  5. Spruce Tip Salt: Blend dried spruce tips with sea salt for a finishing salt that adds a burst of flavor to grilled meats, roasted veggies, or even popcorn. Every sprinkle is like a mini forest adventure for your taste buds.
  6. Spruce Tip Ice Cream: Yes, you read that right. Infuse cream with spruce tips before making your ice cream base. The result? A refreshing, herbaceous treat that’s as cool as the forest floor on a hot summer day.
  7. Spruce Tip Tea: Experience the soothing warmth of spruce tip tea on a chilly evening. Steep spruce tips in hot water for a few minutes, allowing their citrusy aroma to infuse. Add honey for sweetness and perhaps a squeeze of lemon for an extra zing. This comforting beverage is delicious and boasts potential health benefits, including vitamin C and antioxidants.
  8. Spruce Tip Seasoning: Dry and grind spruce tips with salt and other herbs and spices of your choice to create a unique seasoning blend. This aromatic seasoning can be sprinkled over roasted vegetables, grilled meats, or popcorn for an unexpected burst of flavor.
  9. Spruce Tip Infused Oil: This aromatic elixir captures the fresh essence of young spruce tips, offering a unique flavor boost to your culinary creations. Perfect for drizzling over salads, roasting vegetables, marinating meats, or simply dipping with crusty bread, spruce tip-infused oil adds a gourmet touch with a hint of forest magic.
  10. Spruce Tip Pesto: Elevate your pasta dishes with a vibrant spruce tip pesto. Blend spruce tips with garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil until smooth and creamy. The result is a refreshing pesto bursting with earthy flavors, ideal for tossing with pasta or spreading on crusty bread.
  11. Spruce Tip Gin Cocktail: Muddle spruce tips with lemon juice and simple syrup, then add gin and a splash of soda water. This forest-fresh cocktail will make you feel like a woodland sprite at happy hour.
  12. Spruce Tip Sugar: Just chop the spruce tips and mix it with sugar.

Is Spruce Poisonous

Spruce trees, including their tender new growth, like spruce tips, are generally not considered poisonous. In fact, spruce tips are commonly foraged and used in culinary applications, as they offer a unique flavor profile and are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

However, it’s essential to exercise caution and ensure proper identification when foraging for any wild plant, including spruce tips. While spruce tips themselves are not poisonous, lookalike plants in the wild may be toxic if ingested. Always be sure you are harvesting from a spruce tree (Picea genus) and not from a similar-looking species, such as yew (Taxus genus), which is toxic.

Additionally, if you have any allergies or sensitivities, it’s wise to proceed cautiously when trying new foods, including spruce tips. Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to certain plant compounds, so starting with a small amount and monitoring your body’s response is advisable.

Properly identified and harvested, spruce tips are a safe and delicious addition to your culinary adventures.

How do the Spruce Tips Taste

Spruce tips have a unique and delightful flavor profile that is difficult to compare directly to other ingredients. They offer a combination of citrusy, piney, and slightly resinous notes with a hint of sweetness. The taste can vary slightly depending on factors such as the specific species of spruce tree, the time of year they are harvested, and the method of preparation.

Many people liken the taste of spruce tips to a cross between citrus and pine, with a refreshing and bright quality. The young, tender shoots have a softer texture and milder flavor compared to the older, tougher needles of the spruce tree.

When used in culinary applications, spruce tips can add a unique and unexpected twist to dishes, lending a fresh and aromatic element that complements both sweet and savory flavors. Whether infused in syrups, blended into pesto, steeped in tea, or used as a seasoning, spruce tips contribute a distinctively forest-fresh, intriguing, and delicious taste.

Spruce tips generally have a mildly bitter taste, but the bitterness is usually subtle and balanced by other flavors, such as citrusy and piney notes. The bitterness can vary depending on the specific species of spruce tree, the time of year they are harvested, and individual taste preferences.

When harvested at the right stage of growth (young and tender), spruce tips tend to have a milder flavor with less bitterness compared to older, tougher needles of the spruce tree. Additionally, how you prepare and use spruce tips in cooking can also affect their bitterness. For example, incorporating them into sweet dishes like syrups, desserts, or tea can help balance out any bitterness.

While spruce tips have a slightly bitter edge,  their refreshing citrus and pine flavors often overshadow them, making them a versatile and intriguing ingredient in culinary applications.

How to Harvest and Choose the Best Spruce Tips

Spruce tip season is spring is. Usually in late April to early June, depending on your location. These tender, bright green shoots emerge from the tips of spruce branches, offering a fresh flavor reminiscent of citrus and pine.

Selecting the best spruce tips ensures that you’ll get the freshest, most flavorful ingredients for your culinary creations. Here are some tips on how to choose the best spruce tips:

  1. Look for Young, Tender Shoots: Opt for spruce tips that are young and tender, usually in the early spring to early summer months. These shoots are typically lighter in color, bright green, and have a soft texture. Avoid spruce tips that appear wilted, discolored, or have started to harden, as they may be past their prime.
  2. Choose Healthy Trees: Harvest spruce tips from healthy, mature trees that have not been exposed to pesticides or other contaminants. Avoid trees that show signs of disease or stress, such as dead or dying branches, yellowing foliage, or fungal growth.
  3. Harvest Responsibly: When foraging for spruce tips in the wild, practice sustainable harvesting techniques. Choose trees that have an abundance of new growth, and only collect a small portion of the tips from each tree to allow the tree to continue thriving.
  4. Consider the Aroma: Fresh spruce tips should have a pleasant, citrusy-pine fragrance. Take a moment to smell the tips before harvesting or purchasing them. They are likely fresh and flavorful if they have a strong, aromatic scent.
  5. Check for Pests: Inspect the spruce tips for any signs of insect infestation or damage. While a few minor imperfections are normal, avoid spruce tips that are heavily damaged or have visible signs of pests, as they may affect the taste and quality of the final dish.

Spruce Tips Species

Each species of spruce tip offers a slightly different taste profile, with some carrying a strong citrus note, while others may be a bit bitter. All types I’ve sampled possess a robust piney-citrus essence with variations in astringency. Your palate will serve as the best guide. My top two favorite species for cooking are:

  1. White Spruce (Picea glauca)
  2. Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)
  3. Norway Spruce (Picea abies)

Storing Spruce Tips

Spruce tips boast an impressive shelf life. When picked fresh and cooled, they can last for multiple months frozen. I store spruce tips in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel to help retain moisture. If they are to be kept for a month or longer, vigilant monitoring is necessary to prevent mold. Alternatively, they can be frozen for recipes like ice cream and syrup.

Vacuum-sealing them before freezing maintains their flavor best, but a tightly sealed ziplock bag works too.

Keep in mind that frozen spruce tips won’t have the same soft texture as fresh ones. They’re best used in recipes like ice cream, syrup, or anything where they’ll be pureed rather than eaten raw.

Spruce Tips Look Alike

Identifying spruce tips correctly is essential for safe foraging. Here are some common lookalikes to be aware of:

  1. Fir Tips: Fir trees, such as Douglas fir and balsam fir, have similar-looking young shoots. However, fir tips tend to be softer and less prickly than spruce tips. They also have a distinctively resinous aroma compared to the citrusy-pine scent of spruce.
  2. Hemlock Tips: Hemlock trees, particularly the Eastern Hemlock, bear needles that resemble those of spruce trees. However, hemlock needles are typically smaller and finer than spruce needles. Hemlock trees are also toxic, so it’s crucial to differentiate between them and spruce trees.
  3. Yew Tips: Yew trees produce needle-like leaves that might be mistaken for spruce tips at a glance. However, yew is highly toxic if ingested, so it’s essential to exercise extreme caution and ensure proper identification.
  4. Cedar Tips: Cedar trees, such as Eastern Red Cedar or Northern White Cedar, have scale-like foliage rather than needles. However, young cedar growth can sometimes resemble spruce tips in appearance. Cedar has a distinct aroma that differs from the citrus-pine scent of spruce.
  5. Pine Tips: While not as similar in appearance to spruce tips, young pine shoots may be confused with spruce by inexperienced foragers. Pine needles typically grow in clusters, whereas spruce needles are individually attached to the branch. Pine needles also tend to be longer and more flexible than spruce needles.

Yew Branches

When foraging for spruce tips, always consult a reliable field guide or seek guidance from an experienced forager to ensure accurate identification and safe harvesting practices. Mistaking spruce tips for lookalikes can have serious consequences, so it’s crucial to exercise caution and diligence.

While conifers generally offer safe edibles, it’s crucial to distinguish between spruce tips and other plants, particularly the poisonous yew (Taxus spp). Here’s what you need to know:

Yew Growth, Poisonous Lookalike: Yew foliage displaying young growing tips, which can be mistaken for spruce tips. However, yew typically grows as a low-growing shrub, while spruce tips emerge from the branches of trees. While the differences may be clear to experienced foragers, beginners should exercise caution as the resemblance between yew and spruce tips could be confusing.

Cooking With Spruce Tips Tips 😂

Spruce tips pack a punch on their own, so a little goes a long way, especially with more robust species. Spruce tips have many culinary uses and pair well with many different foods. The flavor reminds me of citrus, mint, and green melon in one. Here are some flavor pairings that I like pair with spruce:


  • Chocolate one of the best combinations: chocolate-covered spruce tips or spruce tip ice cream with chocolate shavings
  • Dark berries or cherries, think berry cobbler
  • Cream-based desserts like ice cream, panna cotta, or mousse
  • Creamy nuts like pistachios, macadamia, or cashews


  • Add to vegetables like peas (pesto), asparagus, beans (spreads etc), or potatoes
  • Organ meats (my favorite) heart and liver stew
  • Marinades or rubs for meat such as game, goat, lamb, or pork
  • Salads with arugula, romaine, or spring mix
  • Citrus, such as orange, lemon or lime (pine tips and citrus sprinkle for desserts)

So, there you have it – the lowdown on spruce tips, nature’s little green gems. Why not forage some for your kitchen next time you’re strolling through the woods? Not only will you surprise your palate, but you’ll also impress your friends with your newfound forest-to-table culinary skills. Go ahead, embrace your inner wild chef and let those spruce tips bring a fresh twist to your cooking!

Happy foraging, and may your culinary adventures be ever green and delicious! 🌲✨

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