When it comes to foraging, PLEASE do your homework by consulting experts and guidebooks to make sure you really know what you're picking. There are some resources listed on the right. I'm a hobbyist who is sharing her experiments. I think foraging is amazingly entertaining, and fun, and awesome, but I never pick/eat something I'm not sure of. It's difficult to resist picking something you're almost sure of, but you have to do it. Resist. Take pictures. Pick a sample. Go home and study up. And then if you're sure, go back and harvest. Here are some ethical foraging guidelines.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Phone-a-friend Spruce-tips

Bemoaning the difficulty in reaching the spruce tips on the giant spruce tree in my back-yard, I was racking my brain last week trying to think up a place to look for spruce-tips down on my 5'2" level.  At work I randomly miss-dialed a number by one digit and ended up in a conversation with an old high school classmate. She brought up this blog and when I mentioned spruce-tips, she expressed the same frustration and then gave me a tip!

Spruce Tips

With the plan of using this friend's tip, I called up my mom to see if she wanted to take the dogs for a walk and see if we couldn't pick some spruce-tips.

Mom picking spruce tips with Nellie.

Timing is good for spruce tips, if even a little early!  We got about 7 cups worth in an hour and didn't touch loads of spruce tips that were just a little too small.

My best friend's parents were the first people to introduce me to spruce-tip jelly.  It quickly became one of my favorite things in the world.  They'd give us two jars every spring which we would nurse as long as possible. To my surprise, I can still remember their phone number, and after we got off the trail, I gave Judy a call to see if I could get her recipe.

"It's the best, isn't it?" she said when she found out why I was calling. They use the Cooperative Extension book Collecting and Using Alaskan Wild Berries and Other Wild Products. The Cooperative Extension is an amazing resource with info on just about any kind of local agriculture and foraging thing you could want.  If you don't already take advantage of your local Cooperative Extension, you should.  I popped down there this morning to grab a copy of the book Judy mentioned and will be making their version of spruce-tip jelly tonight.

Spruce-tip Marmalade

But before we even went foraging, I had an idea for another spruce-tip experiment: Spruce-tip and Orange Marmalade.  Spruce-tips have a light citrus-y flavor to them that I was certain would work with a basic orange marmalade.

I picked up a copy of a very pretty and handy book that outlined a lot of preservation processes and techniques as well as recipes, Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton, which I cross-referenced with my #1 stand-by, The Joy of Cooking by Marion Rombauer Becker.  The recipe below is essentially Sherri Brooks Vinton's, modified to include spruce-tips.  Her recipe is VERY similar to the basic marmalade recipe in The Joy of Cooking.

Spruce Tips & Oranges

  • 6 large oranges
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups spruce tips
  • + some extra sugar
Day 1 
  • Scrub the oranges. Slice off and discard the ends of the oranges.  Quarter the oranges and remove seeds.  Slice the oranges very thinly and put in a pot. Pour the water in and then press the orange slices to release some of the juice.  Cover the pot with a tea-towel and leave out overnight.
Day 2 
  • Bring the pot to a boil and then simmer until the rinds are tender, about 30 min.  Cool, cover, and leave out overnight.
  • Put cleaned spruce tips into a food processor, blend until well-shredded.  Add sugar and blend until well-blended.  Cover and leave in the fridge

Cleaned Spruce Tips
Spruce Tip Sugar
Day 3
  • Measure out 4 cups worth of orange mixture - set aside any extra - and return the four cups worth to the pot.
  • Measure out sugar mixture, if there isn't 4 cups, add extra sugar to make up the difference, add to the pot.
  • Bring pot to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the marmalade gels - 30 - 40 min.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Skim off any foam and either refrigerate for use in the next couple of weeks, or jar for later use.

Spruce Tip Marmalade
Finished product!  A little green, but very delicious.
While it seems a little crazy to have this recipe take three days, it was actually pretty easy.  Each step took an hour or less and ultimately it felt like a pretty painless process.

By far the most annoying part was cleaning the spruce tips.  As you can see in the first picture, they have a papery shell that has to be pulled off.  The shell is easy to pull off, but since the tips are small, it takes a while to go through them all. Even so, I found it less annoying than dealing with fiddleheads. Maybe because I already knew how much I loved spruce-tips.

And the marmalade is delicious.  Straight marmalade is usually too overpowering for me, the spruce-tips however cut the intensity of the oranges and added their own extra level of flavor.  The color is a little off-putting, somewhere along the lines of a green salsa, but I think the deliciousness overrides it.

Collection: Easy
Cleaning: Moderately Annoying
Cooking: Easy, but a little time-consuming
Deliciousness: Very

Spruce-Tip Marmalade on Punk Domestics


  1. This looks delicious, I love finding new ways of using foraged foods! Spruce tips have such a lovely flavour, I'll pin it to remember for next year!

    1. Agreed! I wish I had picked more do I could've made a second batch! Looking forward to next season's experiments already!