Wild on Mt. Tamalpais: Foraging Fridays

This week:

Let’s get TIPsy!

I have a confession to make. I don’t know my trees. I mean, I do, kinda…but not confidently enough to proclaim whether the above beauty is a Fir (I think it is) or a Pine or a Spruce (probably not). It’s evergreen. It’s coniferous. And it’s still in my own knowledge blindspot. Polishing up my arborist skills has long been on my list of things to do, so perhaps this season is The Time.

The good news is that all of the aforementioned trees have edible tips in the springtime. If you’ve ever nibbled on a mature pine needle, you probably have a a strong memory of the resinous taste, and fairly unpleasant experience. (Also, if your Grandfather and Uncle ever conned you into eating evergreen sap, you may feel doubly wary of this post. The Indians used it as chewing gum, Papa  said. Oh, it’s falling apart in your mouth? Just keep chewing. It will turn into gum, Uncle Gary said. It tastes terrible? Quit your whining and chew they said. Kristen and Craig, I’m looking at you. Scarred for life, or what?)

The young tips are an entirely different culinary experience, thank goodness. With a citrus tang and a floral overtone reminiscent of Christmas morning, plucking the new growth is one of my favorite spring rituals.

Used fresh or dried, the possibilities are vast. Dried and steeped in your cup, they make a wonderful tea. Or you can make Spruce Salt or Pine Sugar. Fresh, the recipes are even more exciting. As a basic medicinal syrup with raw honey, they are a perfect source of vitamin C. They can also be put into cookies for Fir Tip Shortbread (check out that link btw, it’s one of my new fave blogs), or into mayonaise on your BLT (YUM).

For one little girl, a bounty of tips coincided with a proudly filled bucket of fresh lemons. Fir Tip Lemonade, anyone?

The first thing you’ll need to do is make a basic syrup that can then be added to all kinds of gastronomical fun.


1 cup Fir, Pine or Spruce tips, chopped fine.
1 cup unrefined sugar or raw honey
1 cup water

Make sure you remove the little brown papery sheath from the end of the tips (if it’s still on). You could also food process the tips, but I think chopping is gentler and more respectful.

Bring your cup of water to a boil, then add the tips and sugar (if using honey, WAIT). Simmer for 3-5 minutes, then turn off the heat. If using honey, wait until the tea has cooled down from the boiling point, then add it in. Cover and let steep overnight.

Next morning, uncover your golden gift and inhale. Let the glorious scent open your heart, and offer thanks and gratitude as you strain the syrup. Put in a sterilized jar and keep in the fridge.


For each glass of lemonade:

Juice of 1 lemon, plus one tablespoon
2 tablespoons Tip Syrup
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a large measuring cup. Fill your glass with ice, and pour the lemonade through a mesh strainer into the glass. Before consuming, prepare another glass to share with a little girl who is patiently chanting “Ominade. Ominade.” .

Oh, I don’t know…it was pretty tasty I guess.

The Disclaimer

Think with your stomach! Do not ingest wild plants unless you are sure you have identified them correctly and are willing to take responsibility for using yourself as a guinea pig. It is SO not my responsibility if you eat the wrong thing and get poopy pants, or die. You’re an adult. you can make your own choices.

Have a great weekend and Cinco de Mayo!


2 thoughts on “Wild on Mt. Tamalpais: Foraging Fridays

  1. THAT Alaska cooking is a great blog. I will definitely be using that lady’s ideas and recipes. I use dried Douglas fir tips to flavor liquors, but i also get a hankering for the tea once in a while.

  2. mmmmmm, yummy! my sister made some fir tip syrup last year but i never got to taste it. i’ve been noticing those bright green tips all around, oh how i love springtime. and so does a happy lemonade drinker i see!

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