Homemade Tree Tip Syrup
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Harvest spruce, fir or pine tree tips to make delicious tree tip syrup at home with just two simple ingredients! Make your own homemade syrup out of tree tips and brown sugar and enjoy over breakfasts, desserts or in cocktails.
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Back when I was still living in the city with limited space and a north-facing balcony, I wasn’t able to grow food like I do today. But I still wanted to play a role in my own food production.
I began learning how to make things from scratch, preserve at a very basic level, and forage for simple-to-identify wild foods
Then one day, I picked up a copy of the Urban Homesteading Cookbook at my local library and decided to bring it along on a camping trip my husband and I were taking. I flipped through the pages as we sat around the fire.
The book was full of recipes and bits of insight from the author: a conservation biologist who was homesteading out of her high-rise condo in the heart of downtown Vancouver: proof that even people in the tiniest of urban spaces can be homesteaders too.
She kept meat rabbits in her tiny, 400-square-foot apartment, quail on her balcony, an aquaculture tank to grow plants and even grew mushrooms in her closet! I was fascinated and inspired to dive into homesteading despite the fact that I still lived in the city too.
Amongst the pages of this book was a recipe for tree tip syrup. It seemed like such a novel idea to
a) make your own syrup, and
b) make it from tree tips, that I knew this is something I had to try.
The syrup is made with two simple ingredients: brown sugar and new green tips from spruce, fir or pine trees. These tips are the new growth on the tips of the branches in the spring. They’re bright green in colour, soft in texture and citrusy in flavour. They’re also edible and high in Vitamin C, and can be used to flavour all sorts of dishes either as an herb or a preserve.
And lo and behold… we were camping in May, right at the exact time all the new tree trips were growing. I looked up and literally almost every tree was bursting with bright green new growth.
I packed a freezer bag full of them and stuck them in our cooler until we got home. This part was important because I couldn’t let them dry out since the recipe requires that the tree tips be moist.
How to make tree tip syrup
Back in my kitchen, I pulled out my bag of tree tips and began stuffing them in a Mason jar. As per the recipe in the book, I packed a layer of tree tips onto the bottom of the jar, then followed that with a thick, packed layer of brown sugar. Then I layered more tree tips and more brown sugar, and repeated this until my jar was full. And then, I waited.
Over the course of a couple weeks, the sugar drew out the moisture from the fresh tree tips and began to liquefy. When the sugar had completely liquefied, I strained out the tree tips, and bottled my freshly-made syrup.
I was pleasantly surprised at how citrusy it tasted, and I convinced myself that even though it was really just pure sugar (like all syrups), at least it had the added benefit of containing lots of vitamin C, right?
In either case, it was damn delicious too, especially over pancakes or vanilla ice cream.
But also in cocktails, like this tree tip mojito, made with mint, lime, fresh tree tips and tree tip syrup.
How to forage for tree tips
Tree tips tend to be ripe for the picking throughout the month of May here in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll know as soon as you see the bright green tips shoot out from the ends of the branches. Just remember to harvest responsibly and only take what you need.
You can store your tree tip syrup in the pantry or the refrigerator. While I’m not sure of the shelf life, I had a bottle in my pantry for two years that was just fine. I’ve only ever had one batch go moldy, in which case I tossed that bottle. Otherwise this has always proven to be pretty shelf stable, as well as being a crowd pleaser at family breakfasts and holiday brunches.
You can also make tea, jelly, infused oils, vinegar and alcohol from tree tips. If you’ve never tried them, I highly recommend making this the year that you do!
I would also highly recommend a copy of The Urban Homesteading Cookbook to anyone interested in learning more about foraging (especially in the Pacific Northwest) and/or homesteading in tiny, urban areas. Looking back, that book made a huge impact on me at that time in my life and pushed me to move deeper into the homesteading, made-from-scratch lifestyle even while I was still living in my own condo in the city.
And now that I live on 1/4-acre homestead on the edge of the forest, far from the big city where I used to live, I’m still making tree tip syrup every spring. The only difference is, now the trees are literally in my backyard:)