Douglas Fir spring tips

The Douglas Fir (pseudotsuga menziesii) is ubiquitous west of the Cascade Range, so it’s a bit ironic that I first encountered tea made from the tender spring tips of this iconic tree while visiting my parents in Amarillo, Texas.

My mom and I promptly bought this tea from Juniper Ridge because, well, who can resist a product that smells like a forested hike on a lovely summer day?

Although the packaged tea was much tidier to deal with, as soon as spring rolled around my husband and I filled bags and bags with the bright green tips from the trees around his parents’ house, which we then dried in the oven. I packaged the dried needles in leftover tea tins, and the tea has been a constant companion on winter hikes since then. It has a delicate lemon flavor and is good hot or cold. Steep it for at least 10-12 minutes and don’t be shy about re-using it; the tea can withstand multiple rounds of steeping.

When the new growth emerges in the spring, the tips are a bright lime green that contrasts sharply with the older boughs. This new growth produces the most flavorful tea, in my experience, but do avoid harvesting too many tips from any one tree or any area of a single tree. Douglas Firs are fast-growing, sunlight-tolerant trees that are among the first conifers to recolonize disturbed areas. Because they can be so tall, I’ve found it easiest to harvest tips from younger, shorter trees.

Doug Fir tea is an easy entry into the world of foraging because the tree is so common and so easily identified, but all the standard precautions about eating wild foods apply here too.

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