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Spruce shoot syrup.

Botanical name: 

I've made spruce shoot syrups every few years for decades.

This year, I made it from mugo pine (Pinus mugo) shoots (cos the neighbors want to cut theirs down by a third) and blue spruce (Picea pungens) shoots (cos there's a tree in our garden).
Photo: Picea pungens 1. Pic: Blue spruce branches.

The shoots of both were a tad too old for picking, but that doesn't actually matter when you're making syrups. So while the shoots should still be so soft that you can just nip them off, I used my knife on these.

Photo: Picea pungens. Pic: Blue spruce and mugo pine shoots in a basket.

And my, those picked shoots have a heavenly, very lemony scent.

Edible conifers include spruces (Picea sp.), pines (Pinus sp.), and firs (Abies sp.). I've also used our local juniper (Juniperus communis), but I have no clue if all the junipers would work.

The recipe is my current practical "let's make a syrup then" one:
Put herb into pot, cover with water, let boil on high heat for 20-30 minutes, strain out the herb.

(It should be "40 g fresh herb to 1 l boiling water", but I just cover the herb with water and leave things at that. This works fine for spruce shoot syrup, and it's abysmal for herbs with an extremely strong taste - like thyme.)

Let simmer on low low heat until only 2 dl of the liquid are left, or until you can't be bothered to wait any longer, whichever comes first. Measure that 2 dl, add 1-2 tablespoons of your leftover liquid - let's face it, evaporating off water for syrup is tedious. Hands up, those of you who actually wait for enough of the water to evaporate ...
... add 450 g sugar, let dissolve on low heat while stirring.

Pour into a glass jar, close tight lid, add label: "spruce shoot syrup, June 2006".

Use this syrup as a cough syrup, or to give a taste of forest to teas, icecream and the like.

Mmm. Spruce shoot syrup. This one will be extraordinary. Excellent scent.

Related entries: Syrup flu pills - Frozen syrup


In Quebec they have a kind of carbonated spruce beverage called spruce beer, which like ginger ale, is non-alcoholic. In moderation it's a pleasant drink.

But I learned the hard way that spruce beer + gin = bad, bad news.

Gin is of course flavored with juniper, so I expect that you got an overload of resins.

Although alcoholic drinks involving spruce beer are rare, there is one, invented at Club Chase et Peche (Montreal) called the Buttstrip and involves spruce beer, gin, orange juice, Campari and Jagermeister. I tried one at home last night and it's oh so good! You feel like a real woodsman and the blend of "nature" flavours (herbs, juniper, spruce) is balanced by the citrus. Try it out!

Hmm. Something tasty from Jagermeister? Dunno if I want to opne that bottle ...

I'm not sure if it's the species or the age of the shoots - I got a very resiny taste from the syrup of the shoots of one or the other Abies (canadensis?), in summer. It was one of those with resin pockets in the otherwise smooth bark.

So try spring shoots, and/or try another edible conifer.