In honor of our luke warm winter this year you might have noticed the early buds on the bushes, and full on spring in the lower 48 a good month ahead of schedule. It’s a great exciting time in Southeast to get out and forage spring’s bounty, from fiddleheads to stinging nettles, and one of my favorites; spruce tips. Made famous by Vancouver’s use of spruce tips in beer while visiting Alaska (and still used in Alaskan Winter Ale) they provide a powerhouse of vitamin c, a great healer of sore throats and stomach ulcers and also used as a mouthwash. I prefer them jellied and pickled, focusing on the second. I have two recipes this month, one a traditional vinegar based pickle recipe, it needs a few months to rest, so if I were you I’d pick enough spruce tips for both, the probiotic fermented version (edible in a few days) and the vinegar based pickled version (ready in three months). Here are some other great books on wild foraging and medicinal herbs. So get out there, take a few friends or family and enjoy the longer days as we prepare for summer.

Additional reading sources:

  • Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield
  • Plants of Coastal British Columbia including Washington, Oregon, and Alaska by Pojar and MacKinnon
  • Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

Amber King can be emailed at

Pickled Spruce Tips

  • 2 cups young spruce tips
  • 1 cup purified water
  • ½ cup Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2Tbln sugar, organic
  • 2 tsp Flake Sea or Pink Himalayan Salt
  • Star Anise, whole crushed (1 whole per ½ pint)
  • ½ pint canning jars (sterilized, seals and rings)

Clean spruce tips of the brown papery husk (this is a sticky job) rinse well in cold water. Pack in sterilized ½ pint canning jars with tips until ½ inch from the top of the jar. Meanwhile bring spices salt, sugar and water and vinegar to boil on the stovetop until dissolved. Fill mason jars with hot pickling liquid leaving ½ inch headspace from the top, secure with lid and seal. Process jars for ten minutes in a water bath canner (covered in water by 1 inch) for 20 minutes, pull and cool. Allow pickles to age for at least three months before use.

Probiotic Fermented Spruce Tips

I prefer natural fermented vegetables to utilize the probiotic enzymes that come from natural fermentation process. Especially with today’s pesticide laden diets, probiotics can heal the gut and a host of ails, adding in fermented vegetables to a daily diet is a great way to help combat a ton of ailments.

I use the Perfect Pickler kits, which are designed to fit on most wide mouth canning jars, large or small depending on the amount you want to process. You do need to have a warm area for the veggies to ferment over 60 degrees but not hotter than 80 (which shouldn’t be a problem in Southeast) usually within the first day you will start to see bubbles forming.

Fill jar of your choice with cleaned spruce tips

Add 1 tsp high quality sea salt

Fill with filtered water, insert metal tamper, then seal with gasket and pickler lid. Fill airlock to the line with water and place in the “o” ring. Put jar on a plate (most of the time it will overflow) and place in warm area (but not direct sunlight) for up to three days. Once fermented remove pickler lid and cover with regular canning jar lid and refrigerate. Enjoy blended in salad dressings, mayonnaise, on top of fried eggs for breakfast, and with rice as a side condiment in Asian dishes, but my favorite has to be in a great Bloody Mary or Caesar on Sunday morning!

You can also pulverize fresh spruce tips in sugar or salt in a blender or food processor to use as garnish, or in baking!
Enjoy from my spruced up table to yours,
Amber King |