Spruce Tips Pesto

Spruce Tips Pesto

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Sometimes, when you are in a secluded location (like I currently am in Montana) you can be in the middle of cooking when you realize that you’re missing a key ingredient. 😫 It’s those times that I find myself using what’s on hand instead. Since I currently have one foot in San Diego and the other in Montana, I can’t really start a garden in either location. So recently, when I wanted to make pesto for a seafood pasta dish, I realized I didn’t have basil. I certainly did not want to make the thirty-minute drive into town just for basil. Then I remembered my friend, Sandi, who recently mentioned having tried Spruce Tips Pesto. She said it was amazing! And since I’m literally surrounded by spruce trees, I decided to alter my pesto recipe by substituting Spruce Tips for basil.

spruce tips pesto in a small white bowl

No access to spruce?

I can just hear some of you now; “Spruce? Where am I supposed to get Spruce?” If you don’t have access to the woods right outside your door, like some of us, make regular pesto instead. Substitute one cup of basil for the spruce tips. See how reasonable I can be? If, however, you really want to try making Spruce Tips Pesto, you can actually buy them online. I would like to suggest a word of caution. If you wouldn’t know a Spruce tree if you bumped right into it, please don’t pick from any pine tree you find. I don’t want anyone that’s reading this post to eat something that might cause them more harm than good. You may want to check out this informative article that explains how to identify a Spruce. However, if you’re still unsure, just stick to basil, would ya?

basil plant in a white pot
Photo by Stephanie Studer on Unsplash

Proper Spruce Picking Techniques

Since I’m no Spruce tips expert, I decided to do a little digging. I wanted to find out what to do, and what not to do. Here’s what I learned:

  • The best tasting spruce tips come from Blue Spruce trees, so if you have access to them, consider yourself lucky!
  • The best time to harvest Spruce tips is in early Spring when they are young and tender. However, we’re into June and there’s still plenty to pick, at least here in Montana!
  • Avoid picking too many tips from the same tree, especially from young trees. Instead, pick from a variety of Spruce trees, if available.
  • Pick the brighter, newer growth, which will be at the end of the branches.
  • When picking, you are essentially pruning the tree. Therefore, be sure to pick from areas that are towards the bottom of the tree, or from interior branches. Picking from the top will stunt the growth of the tree.
spruce tree
A young Spruce tree loaded with tender tips, ready for the picking.

Spruce Tips Recipe Ideas

There are so many ways Spruce tips are prepared, you are only limited by your imagination. Spruce tips have a combination of two main flavors; The initial taste is citrusy, which is followed by the taste of resin. Because of their strong flavor, a little goes a long way! Soaking the tips in water helps remove some of the resiny-flavor. This helps the flavor to mellow out a bit as well. Soaking them in hot water works even better, however, the tips will lose their bright green color. These versatile tips are also used to make pickles, cookies, ice cream, syrup, jam, beer, soda, and of course, pesto!

More Recipe Ideas:

  • Toss fresh, uncooked tips into a salad with other greens.
  • Steep dried tips in hot water to make tea. Spruce is loaded with vitamin C, so the tea can be soothing for a sore throat. Adding a cinnamon stick and honey has even more health benefits.
  • Add some tips to cold water, which will impart a mild flavor, similar to adding lemon or cucumber slices to your water.
  • Add the tips to green smoothies.
  • Use the tips in the place of rosemary in recipes.

How to Make Spruce Tips Pesto

  • Wash one cup of freshly-picked spruce tips. Add to foodprocessor.
  • Add garlic, walnuts (or pinenuts), salt, pepper, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper, if using.
spruce tip pesto ingredients in a food processor bowl
  • Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
spruce tips pesto in a food processor on the counter with orange spatula
  • While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil.
  • Add parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Give it one last whirl.
spruce tip pesto in a food processor
  • Mix in with your favorite pasta dish, or as a substitute for pizza sauce.
If you would like me to post this pasta recipe, leave me a comment and I just might!

You may also enjoy these other unusual recipes: Pickled Nasturtium Seeds, Purslane Dip, Foraging for Food, Quince Preserves, and Loquat Fruit Salsa.

For more information about how the Spruce was used in the past, you may enjoy reading the following post: Sprucelets: An Original Adirondack Medicine.

Do you Pinterest? Please pin and share this recipe!

5 from 3 votes
Spruce Tips Pesto
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins

A delicous, citrusy pesto made with the new growth of spruce trees.

Course: Condiments
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 488 kcal
Author: Hilda Sterner
  • 1 cup fresh spruce tips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 T. avocado oil (or use more olive oil)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  1. Add one cup of washed spruce tips into a food processor.

  2. Add garlic, walnuts (or pinenuts), salt, pepper, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper, if using.

  3. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  4. While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil.

  5. Add parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Give it one last whirl.

  6. Mix in with your favorite pasta dish, or as a substitute for pizza sauce.

Recipe Notes

The nutrition info was calculated using basil pesto. Although I tried, I could not find specific nutritional formation on spruce tips.

Nutrition Facts
Spruce Tips Pesto
Amount Per Serving (2 servings)
Calories 488 Calories from Fat 450
% Daily Value*
Fat 50g77%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Fiber 4g17%
Protein 6g12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

2 thoughts on “Spruce Tips Pesto”

  • Yes, I felt the same way when I heard that Spruce tips were edible. I’m picking some to take back to San Diego with me so I can test out more recipes! Gettem’ while they’re good!

  • I find this very interesting. I would never in a million years thought to make pesto with a tree. I am intrigued and my horizons are being broadened by your unusual recipes. I think I will have to try this and report back!

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