It took a refreshing hike in the Alaskan woods this morning for me to realize that often times we do not fully understand ingredients and their actual potential. We were walking and I was grabbing leaves and branches, squeezing needles and leaves, inhaling the fragrant perfume of the forest floor mingling with the evergreen essential oils still fresh on my fingertips. I reached for a spruce branch and it pricked my finger, which prompted me to take a closer look. The spruce branch itself was mature with strong, pointed needles. The tips of the branches were covered with small buds, which seemed to be wrapped in a rough papery skin. When I picked one and peeled it, a Kermit the Frog green bud was exposed. Inside this protective coating was a tiny, delicate spruce bud. The minute needles were tender with a subtle clean spruce flavor. The lemony notes of the spruce were also apparent and the tannins, which are so often dominant in spruce tips, were tamed. I suddenly realized that in many of our uses and applications of spruce we have been using slightly older tips, which while fragrant and much easier to deal with than mature needles, were not ideal for being served on their own. The discovery of the spruce bud was an awakening for my palate and for my imagination.
What else have we been using without understanding the true potential of what was cradled in the palms of our hands?