Forget the sound of robins chirping. Look beyond your farmer’s market. Even the warm kiss of the suns first rays are not what shows me spring has arrived. Its something subtle, simple, and will go unnoticed by pretty much every other member of the populous other than .02%. I finally take a deep breath and smell the dandelions, put away my winter coat, and bring out the pastel colors upon the sight of spruce and pine sprouts.
These coniferous trees are the most durable plant creatures on the planet. In winter, they hold the weight of snow without shedding a needle, without succumbing to the frozen water. “Never let them see you cry,” they’ve been told by their ancestree. Around Christmas we adorn their strong limbs with chotzkes, light up their layers with whatever was cheapest at Walgreens, and tie them up in bad cereal. All of this, these bastions of strength hold without so much as a grimace. And their time to stretch out, smile, and make little tree branch babies is neigh. Those little lime green spots you didn’t notice until you breezed through my musings are spruce tips. Those little ends grow into another branch of the plant, big and strong like their predecessor, like their great great great grandfather, the trunk, told them they would do one day. But I like to eat stuff. I see things and I put them in my face. I’m an herbivore, a carnivore, and a isthatgoingtobetastyavore. So I apologize for having pulled out plants, roots, leaves, flowers, floras, and sprouts on our walk around the neighborhood. I am sorry our game of footie was postponed because, wait, was that sorrel back there? Oooh, tiny dandelion greens. Is that a, ugh, spit, gross. Ok, that was not Spanish chervil. That was, well, I’m not sure, but some of it is in my body now. And I’m ok with that.
So naturally I ate spruce tips. I picked off their soft cluster of lime colored baby needles. I rubbed them tightly to smell their citrusy bouquet for the first time of 2k14. I stuffed it in my face. Spit. Still starchy, a little too young, not yet sweet. But soon my dear friend. So yes, I’m casually eating tree babies. Before you pass judgement, look down at your breakfast. Anyway, now what. What to do with a garbage bag of spruce tips picked from 100 urban trees around our fine region? Well that’s really up to you. Spruce tip beer has made it to the market. I make cocktail bitters for my home bar, so that’s a sure bet. Why not juice the soft shoots, add a touch of simple syrup, maybe some braulio amaro and make afreezey pop? A spruce tip vinegar, a spruce tip powder, a pasta, a broth, a socca with spruce tips and pimenton d’espelette emulsion, a citrusy spruce tip aioli for fried smelts; limits exist only within the parameters of which are set.
A crudo of marinated pink shrimp, sitting atop a dehydrated slice of orange, with little toasted pine nuts, a bit of pine needle ash, accented with pine sprouts, a dash of orange juice. That sounds rather lovely to me now, but again, its breakfast time, so by afternoon I’m quite certain my mind will be on to something else.