I don’t have much experience with other kinds of conifers, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that, like most of what’s available to us here in Southeast Alaska, the spruce tips from our local Sitka spruce (shéiyi, Picea sitchensis) are a special kind of delicious. And like many foraged foods, their flavor is uniquely their own and somewhat difficult to describe, with notes of sweet citrus and pine. When cooking with spruce tips I always use lemon zest, which seems to punch up and show off the flavor of spruce tips to their best advantage.
These beautiful, neon green buds are easy to gather, and I think are especially fun to pick with kiddos. What could be better than clambering around on a beach, getting a little sticky and eating a tree? This is the time for it. Often these buds will still have the sticky papery sheath, so I highly recommend giving them a little flick of the finger before you pluck them off the tree, since those paper sheaths can become annoyingly difficult to pick out of a bowl of buds. The easiest place to gather is along the edges of openings where shorter, younger trees will have their buds within easy reach — think beaches, meadows or muskegs.
Of all the various wild ingredients we have available to us, spruce tips seem to inspire me to all sorts of flights of fancy when dreaming up recipes. I feel like I could write a whole book with nothing but spruce tip recipes. The idea for spruce tip rice krispie treats developed this March when at a family gathering I had my first rice krispie treat in years. As I devoured my second treat, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I have been wasting so much time living a life devoid of rice krispie treats.
What follows is a recipe for an “adult” or “fancy” version of gooey rice krispie treats. If you have a favorite recipe (or just the one that’s probably on the rice krispie box) you can use that and doctor it up with the lemon zest and spruce tips just as easily.
Spruce Tip and Lemon Rice Krispie Treats
Prep: 15 minutes
Makes: 24 treats
10 Tbsp butter
2.5 tsp lemon zest
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp spruce-tips, finely diced (or substitute, rosemary*)
1 Tbsp salt
Two 16 oz bags of mini marshmallows
One 10 oz bag of mini marshmallows
2.5 Tbsp milk
1 12oz box of puffed rice cereal
Grease a large rectangular pan with tall sides and set aside (mine was 12” x 16”). Slowly melt butter in a large pot over low heat. When melted about half way, whisk in lemon zest, ¾ cup diced spruce tips and salt. Once butter is fully melted, stir in two 16 ounce bags of marshmallows. Stir until smooth. Add in the 10 ounce bag of marshmallows and milk and stir until the marshmallows are just starting to melt, you’re looking for gooey lumps. Add in the puffed rice cereal and stir until full coated. Dump the mixture into the greased pan. Spray either a rubber spatula or sheet of parchment paper with oil and use to gently smooth and press the mixture down into all the corners. Sprinkle the top with reserved diced spruce-tips. Once cool, cut into squares. You can keep covered on the countertop, and I actually found that I liked them better after they’d had a day to set-up.
*If you don’t have access to spruce tips, you can sub 3 Tbsp diced fresh rosemary to mix in for a classy rice krispie treat.
• Erin Anais Heist is a food blogger in Juneau. Readers can contact her at foodabe.com, or on Instagram or Twitter at @erinanais. “Eating Wild” recipes publish every other week.