Spruce tips have a fantastic shelf life. Picked fresh and cooled immediately, they can last for multiple months in the cooler under refrigeration at a restaurant. Home refrigerators dry foods out faster than commercial refrigeration units, so you want to be extra careful to keep them in a damp environment.
I like to store them in a plastic bag with a couple holes punched in it for them to breathe, along with a damp paper towel or two to help hold in moisture. If you’ll be keeping the tips for a month or longer, make sure to change the towel every week or so. Spruce tips can also be frozen, and used for my ice cream and syrup recipe below at the bottom of this post.
Here’s a few bullets I find helpful
- Remove the paper covering of any tips before eating, just as you would fiddleheads.
- When I cook with spruce tips, I usually add them raw to salads or vegetable dishes. When they get exposed to heat, their flavor changes, and their color darkens to an unappealing brown. You can get past this by using them in cold dishes, or by just being careful and adding them to thing at the last minute. Pickling them is, ok.
- If I use spruce tips in desserts, they will typically be pureed or in an infusion, and always strained since leftover particles can get bitter.
90% OF THE TIME, I USE SPRUCE TIPS RAW IN COOKING, OR IN AN-UNCOOKED FORM
- “Cooking” with spruce tips is kind of a mis-nomer. After I heat them in something, like syrup, the tips turn brown and since their flavor is now in the syrup, they usually get discarded. I’m never going to toss them in a hot pan with something, since they will lose their color so fast. Think of them as something to sprinkle in a dish at the very last minute, toss in a cold salad, or puree into a cream or custard cold without exposing them to heat.
- Sure, people make spruce tip salt, breads and cookies, and all kinds of stuff. I’ve made them too, and there’s a reason you don’t see recipes for them posted here. You’ll have to search for the flavor in most of the finished products that are cooked, salt is salty and needs to be frozen to not lose it’s bright flavor, etc.
TOO MUCH VITAMIN C
The strong taste of spruce tips should be a deterrent from eating multiple handfuls, but, it is possible for some people to get an upset stomach from eating them, which should (I’m speculating here, chime in if you have concrete examples) be due to the fact that spruce tips are naturally high in Vitamin C.
That being said, from my experience, the tummy rumbles I’ve been notified of and experienced myself are only from consuming raw, un-processed spruce tips straight from the tree, and I have never had a problem serving someone a dessert where the tips are pureed in cream, as they are in just about every dessert I make with them.
This was really tricky for me at first. By themselves, spruce tips are aggressively flavored, so a little goes a long way, especially if you have a more aggressive tasting species. For the most part, for me it’s helped to think about them as either one or two flavors: honeydew melon and mint. From there, I just imagine what a dish would taste like if I added one or both of the two. Here’s some examples of flavors spruce tips like be paired with.
- Sweet green vegetables, especially peas, fava beans, green chickpeas, asparagus, etc.
- Radishes, raw lamb, goat, bison, game, etc.
- Organ meats from all above animals, especially heart and liver
- Citrus, and anything flavored like citrus, especially lime
- Berries, especially dark ones like blueberries, serviceberries, aronia, cherries, etc.
- White chocolate
- Chocolate, like spruce tip ice cream with chocolate shavings
- Citrus, and anything flavored like citrus–especially lime
- Cream, as in ice cream, panna cotta, mousse, etc
- Nuts, especially creamy ones like pistachios, macadamia, and cashew