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Spruce or Fir Tip Syrup

spruce tip syrup recipe

Photo by Hank Shaw

Ever eat a tree? I know, I sound like Euell Gibbons. But really, you can eat the fresh growing tips of spruce or fir trees in any number of ways. My favorite is steeped in a simple syrup. The syrup smells like a pine forest, tastes a little citrusy — moreso if you add lemon juice — and adds a wonderful woodsy note to glazed pheasant, grouse or chicken.

Spruce tip syrup is even better mixed with ice cold water, carbonated or no, and a hint of lime or lemon juice. And it makes a fascinating cocktail mixed with gin.

To gather spruce or fir tree tips, look in springtime for the light-colored ends of the trees: These are the new growth shoots from the tree. Older shoots get too resinous to be very tasty. Work your way around the tree and pick from scattered places so you don’t damage the tree — and never pick the top of a young tree, or you can possibly stunt its future growth.

This syrup should be kept in the fridge, where it should last about 4 months.

Makes 1 pint.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes, plus several hours of passive steeping time

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fir or spruce tips, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)

 __________

  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a lidded pot, stirring to make sure all the sugar is absorbed.
  2. When it hits a boil, turn off the heat. Stir in the spruce tips, cover the pot and leave to cool. The longer you steep the syrup, the stronger spruce flavor you’ll get. I let it steep overnight.
  3. Strain the syrup through cheesecloth, add lemon juice (if using) to taste and bottle.

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12 responses to “Spruce or Fir Tip Syrup”

  1. Cranbery Jam

    [...] From the same cook, a walk-in-the-woods syrup. Spruce or fir tip syrup, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. [...]

  2. Marni Zimmerman

    Any reason why one couldn’t use young hemlock tips instead of fir or spruce?

  3. Molly

    Could I process this in canning jars to store longer than 4 months?

  4. Jules

    Hahaha, that was a joke with the Hemlocks, Hank. Those things will kill you in no time. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. David Eger

    Jules, the conifer hemlock is a completely different plant from the deadly water hemlock. Buds or tips from the hemlock tree are not poisonous.

  6. Andrew Fenn

    There is no reason why this could not be processed in a canning jar, just hot fill it and keep the headspace small.

  7. Danica

    I am so glad I stumbled on to your website. You have the most amazing wholesome food recipes I have ever come across.
    My mom use to make a ‘cough’ syrup from the spring shoots of fir trees. Pack down your shoots into a ‘mason’ jar, put in about 1/2 cup of sugar and fill the rest of it up with either vodka or whiskey. Make sure that the shoots are completely submerged under the alcohol.
    Rotate the jar every other day x 5 months, keeping it in a cool dark place. Then strain thhis concoction into another jar and store in your cupboard or fridge. This is the best ‘cough’ syrup that I ever use. Not only does it clear the cough but reduces the phlegm immensely. And it tastes really good too.

  8. anondo

    Could you use Cedar or Pine needles instead of spruce or fir?

  9. danya caceres

    Hi. trying to make syrup from Douglas Fir and Scots Pine. If you collect small tips where the needles are still attached the soft wooody tip of the branch, do you need to strip the needles off the soft wood? Or is it safe to leave attached and pour over the hot syrup and citric acid? This time of year in Scotland the tips are soft and seeds/cones only 1/4 inch.

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