The spring rainfall in Park City has produced hillsides covered with green grasses and wildflowers. I am inspired to forage for edible plants. Foraging has always sounded like fun. I have several books on the subject. Unfortunately my wild and native plant identifications skills are not great -- potentially a serious problem if you are planning to eat something.
Last night, I returned from walking my dogs to notice the new growth on the Colorado Blue Spruce that line my driveway. I only know these are Colorado Blue Spruce as I have a friend who is a botanist and he identified them when visiting. Once inside I continued reading, The Wild Table by Connie Green and Sarah Scott, a book about seasonal foraged food. I literally turned to the next page and saw a picture of trees with new growth just like the spruce in my driveway. The new growth on the tips of spruce, fir and pine branches is edible. Plucking some of it off is actually healthy for the tree as it helps it fill out. But who wants to eat something that tastes like a Christmas tree? Well these tips don’t. They taste most like citrus peels - primarily orange but also lemon and grapefruit. Interestingly, the trees do not all taste the same. I have about 12 trees. Some were pretty tasteless, others were ok and a few were delicious.
I harvested the tips to make a Colorado Bluen Spruce Syrup that The Wild Table suggests using in cocktails or on pancakes/waffles for breakfast. The spruce tips are super easy to harvest, just pluck them off. They have a brown paper material on the very end called a bud sheath. It usually fell off when plucking the tip but any remaining need to be slipped off. The tips definitely need washing to rid them of any tiny creatures living in the needles. I let them stand in a bowl of water for a while, scooped out tiny floating creatures then rinsed a couple more times.
I decided to start with the breakfast option. Maybe I am not much fun but it was 10 am. I thought it a bit too early for cocktail experiments. I also happened to have a batch of all the dry ingredients for my favorite multigrain waffle mix already made up. The syrup is super easy, just 2:1:1 spruce tips, water, and sugar. When the water and sugar come to a boil add the spruce tips, turn off the heat and let them steep about 2 1/2 hours. In the picture you can see how the tips immediately change color.
I wanted the syrup a bit thicker so I strained out the spruce and let it cook down. I could see some tiny particles of spruce in the finished syrup, so before bottling, I used a super fine strainer to remove them. Cheese cloth would work as well. The syrup is a pretty pale yellow gold.
Don’t you love my “Down on the Farm,” waffle iron. It was a mother’s day present when my kids were young. I still think it is great fun. The waffle batter is adapted from a multigrain pancake recipe in Zoe Nathan’s book Huckleberry with recipes from her restaurant in L.A. The batter has so much flavor and a bit of crunch. I used stone ground corn meal, rye flour, whole wheat flour, quinoa flour and quinoa flakes, flax seed meal and chia seeds. It takes a bit of time to collect and weigh out all these ingredients so I typically make about 4 batches at a time then just add the butter and liquids when I am ready to cook. I made no changes in using the recipe for waffles although it might be nice to separate the eggs then whip the whites and fold them in for fluffiness. However, it is pretty perfect as is.