Spruce Up Father’s Day
In mid-to late spring, spruce tips are popping up all over the place. You might notice them as you go on walks or are out and about in the car – you’ll know you’re seeing spruce tips if you catch a glimpse of bright green dotting the tips of darker green conifer trees in your area. The tips are the terminal – or new growth – of conifer trees. They start out as a bud, with needles bunched up inside a delicate papery covering and then burst open in a show of bright, fresh green. It may make one wonder if adding lights to Christmas trees came about as a way to extend nature’s aesthetic into winter. You can take the best features of spruce tips and make this Father's Day extra special!
This Father’s Day, consider whipping up some aromatic, woodsy-scented and flavoured gifts for Dad that evoke a stroll in the forest.
Gathering Conifer Tips
We’ll be dealing with spruce tips here, but feel free to sub in pine or fir or whatever is local to your area!
- Be sure to check that you have a definite identification before harvesting anything as there are a couple of sometimes mistaken look-a-likes such as yew.
- Refer to a local guidebook for help with a positive I.D.
- Avoid harvesting from trees that are in high traffic areas or that may have been sprayed with chemicals.
- Space out your harvest around a tree, being sure not to take too many tips from one spot, as you are basically pruning the tree – those areas won’t have growth this year. Harvest from several trees if you have the option.
- Only take what you’re sure you’ll use, be reserved in your harvest as over-harvesting of popular wild edibles can quickly become a problem, and strike up a conversation with your children about respecting the tree and the great gift it is providing.
Conifer Tip Gift Ideas
Spruce Tip Cookies:
Make your favourite cookie recipe, and add in ½ -1 cup of washed and diced spruce tips for a woodsy, lemony addition. Spruce tips are particularly good in shortbread cookies. The first set of photos I took were deleted by my camera, and when I went to take new ones there was only one cookie left!
Spruce Tip Syrup:
Wash your tips, and pat them dry. In a saucepan, add equal parts organic sugar (cane, panela, sucanat) or honey, water and chopped spruce tips. Gently heat until the sugar is dissolved, and bring to a gentle boil before removing from heat. For a deep flavour, allow the tips to infuse in the simple syrup overnight. Strain and bottle the syrup. Keep refrigerated for up to four months. Great for use on pancakes, in cocktails or refreshing summer spritzers.
Spruce Tip Honey:
Wash and chop your tips, then pat dry. Partially fill a small jar with raw honey. Next, add your chopped spruce tips and blend them into the honey. Put the lid on the jar and let sit for a week or two. Stir every day or every other day. Before gifting, strain out the spruce tips using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.
Spruce Tip Oxymel:
Take some time to look around online and get familiar with oxymels, which are herbs and/or foods infused in a mixture of honey and vinegar (often apple cider vinegar). We created a mixture of 1 part spruce tips to 3 parts each honey and apple cider vinegar (with mother). Let your mixture infuse for 2 weeks in a place shaded from the sun and then strain and add to spritzers, use as a salad dressing and as an aid to soothe sore throats.
Add some sentimentally cheesy tags, and maybe a fresh spruce tip and you've got a rustic Father's Day gift ready to go! The spruce tip syrup would be great to gift alongside a pancake breakfast in bed or make the cookies for dessert after serving a delicious Father's Day meal!