Harvesting Spruce Trees for Food and Medicine

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While living in Alaska, I was surrounded by Black Spruce trees (picea mariana) and took delight in being able to harvest newly-formed tips from this tree. The Black Spruce can reach up to 80 feet and is found in the northern parts of North America, growing in muskegs, bogs, and bottomlands.

Alaskan Natives used the inner bark for tea, and the pitch to waterproof handmade baskets and seal their birch bark boats. The tree is now utilized for wood, pulp, fuel, Christmas trees, and other products.

Essential oil obtained from the tree is used in various methods for calming, opening the sinus passages, providing mental clarity, and as a disinfectant. The tips can be used to make an antimicrobial cream to help with skin issues or as an anti-inflammatory salve for muscle pain. A tea made from the tips has expectorant properties which can help with lung issues.

Spruce tips are very high in vitamin C and were used by Captain Cook to ward off scurvy. The tender tips can be harvested in the spring, summer, or anytime available and used as a food source in salads, soups, dressings, desserts, and beer.

I used a recipe from The Boreal Herbal, by Beverly Gray, to make this delightful jelly that pairs well with crackers and cheese.

Black Spruce Jelly

Makes 3 – 8 oz. jars of jelly

• 4 cups spruce tips
• 4 cups water
• 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
• One package pectin
• 1-1/2 cups sugar (I used freshly squeezed lemon juice and organic evaporated sugar cane)

1. Add spruce tips to the water and simmer for 5 minutes. Set infusion aside too steep until it reaches room temperature.

2. Strain the tips from the infusion. There should be 3 cups of infusion.

3. Combine spruce tip infusion, lemon juice, and pectin, stir until dissolved.

4. Bring to a hard boil for one minute. Add sugar and stir until dissolved, then bring mixture to a hard boil for 1 minute or until mixture is ready to preserve.

5. Process the ingredients in jars according to fresh preserving instructions.

All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.


Desiree Bell is a vegetarian, certified in herbal studies and aromatherapy. She is celebrating plants for crafts, décor, food, wellness, and pure enjoyment at Bontanical Lifestlye.

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