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Spruce tea

 
master gardener
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Does anyone have instructions for making spruce tea? ... or, am I making this too complicated?
 
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tips are best. harvest in spring when the new growth is soft still.
 
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Yes, the tips are best, and those are best young - but, any part will work - including dried. I'd do it like any other tea. Though I've not had spruce, I've had other evergreen teas, and it's easy - and tasty, I think, especially with a bit of orange blossom, apple blossom, or wildflower honey.
 
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Yes! I love spruce tip tea. I like it best cold, but hot water is used for steeping.

When the spruce tips are first growing, they have a papery, rust-colored covering. Collect them when the tips are still dense (and some probably still have this covering on them). They are much better at this stage than when the cover is gone and the needles have started spreading out. I say this because trees in one spot (and even a single tree) will likely have tips at varying stages of development all at once. Where I live, this is mid to late May, possibly into early June.

Put the tips into a jar and pour hot (just-boiled) water over them. The jar doesn't need to be very full, maybe an inch / a couple layers of spruce tips, and then filled with water. If you want hot tea, go ahead and drink it hot. If you can stand to wait, let it cool a while and then strain it into a glass with ice.

If you want to make a bigger batch and serve it as iced tea & have it look pretty, set aside some spruce tips or just go pinch a few more to drop into the drink. The fresh ones are bright green, but after steeping they turn dull and are not pretty anymore. This may not be important to anyone, but I like to have a few pretty ones in my drink.

You can also make a small amount of really strong spruce tip tea (smaller jar, more full of tips, let steep overnight) and then mix it with fizzy water and ice. I just love the bubbles.
 
Marisa Lee
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One other thing to keep in mind when harvesting: anywhere you pinch off a tip, you are removing/preventing new growth, so it shapes the tree. Don't take all the tips from one side at eye level. Move around. (That said, you likely will find one spruce tree by others, so it's not hard to collect a lot without taking too much from one tree.)
 
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Would spruce tips infuse a pleasant flavour to homemade vodka?
 
Marisa Lee
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Would spruce tips infuse a pleasant flavour to homemade vodka?



I think so, but I suppose it's possible not everyone would like the flavor. Try it as tea first?

I made wintergreen liqueur this year by steeping fresh wintergreen leaves in vodka for a few weeks, straining them out, and adding maple syrup. Early in the process it smelled like mouthwash. Not appealing. But over time, the flavor became more complex. I love it. I have a little pour (an ounce or two) most nights. So I think spruce tip vodka sounds amazing.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I suspect infusing the homemade article with strongly flavoured local botanicals was a way to hide the chewy aftertaste (tails) of incomplete distillation. Thus did "gin" become a thing.
 
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I read something quite interesting about pine needle tea, that in the winter months the vitamin c content is 4-7 times higher than in the summer months: https://practicalselfreliance.com/pine-needle-tea/

Looking at the linked study: https://jppres.com/jppres/pdf/vol6/jppres17.287_6.2.89.pdf it also mentions spruce and juniper and that the vitamin c content of the needles is higher than that of the shoots.

I just found that very interesting when I read it the first time and thought it is worth sharing if someone is looking for local, fresh sources of vitamin c in the winter.
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