Spruce and pine


The name spruce can be found in sources dating back to the 15th century. There have been many suggestions as to where the name spruce comes from. One theory says that fir is derived from the Old Norse word "gron", which means moustache. This may be because the crowns of branches that emanate from the tree trunk look like moustaches. The name spruce is also related to the word "grannr" which means fine, thin or pointed. You may have heard the expression to be spruce, it means to be slender and tall as a spruce. Conifers are evergreen, which means it keeps its green color all year round. Except for larch, which is the only Danish conifer that loses its needles every year.

Conifers are unique in that they have male and female flowers on the same tree.

The cones are female flowers with seeds and the male flowers have pollen. You can also eat the male flowers while they are still firm. They taste mild and are juicy.

Warning: Yew is in the conifer family and is poisonous.

The young needles are called annual shoots and are the most interesting in this context, as they are edible, aromatic and bursting with vitamins.

However, I would just like to mention that it is the resin found in cones and needles that gives the spruce family its characteristic scent and taste of spruce. The main constituents of resin are terpenes and gum. It is the terpenes that make up the essential oils of conifers.

Raw, fresh shoots are aromatic, taste sour, slightly resinous and provide an exciting and different taste experience. When they are fried, boiled or heated in the oven, the distinctive spruce flavor is toned down. The experience becomes berry-like and sweet.

Red spruce - intro, appearance and characteristics

A red spruce can grow up to 30 x 30 cm/year. It has a cone-shaped shape. The branches grow in wreaths around the trunk, between which small branches stick out. The bark of the young trees is reddish brown with small scales, while the bark of the older trees is grey-brown and the bark peels off in thin round flakes. The red spruce's root network lies below the soil surface as a large round disc, since the root network does not go very deep into the ground, the red spruce easily topples in stormy weather.

Needles Know the needles because they are pointed and prickly approx. 1.5 – 2.5 cm long, they protrude from the branch and are almost square with a light stripe on each outside.

Shoots Typically red spruce shoots at the beginning of May, they grow quickly. In a week they stretch from just 5 mm to several cm long, so don't hesitate to collect the shoots.

Cones The cone hangs downwards, the entire cone falls off, so you can recognize the red spruce by the fallen cones at the base of the tree.

Locations Red spruce is one of the most common conifers in Denmark, found throughout Denmark.

Collection At the beginning of May. Pick only from unsprayed trees and well away from busy roads.

Nip the young shoots, preferably from the mature trees and leave the shoots of the young trees. I like to put fir shoots in the freezer and get a spring mood and enjoy them for the rest of the year.

Norway spruce - intro, appearance and characteristics

Norway spruce can grow up to 40 m tall, with a straight trunk. The crown is conical and slender. The bark is gray and smooth with resinous blisters. Older bark splits into square flakes. The root network consists of strong and deep-reaching main roots.

Needles The needles are flat with a smooth upper side, two white stripes can be seen on the underside. The needles do not stick as we know it from red spruce, as the needles have a rounded tip.

Shoots The very young shoots sit like a firm little bundle, with a brown bud scale, when the shoot opens, stretches if you like, the bud scale falls off, a "middle parting" is formed when the shoot is fully open.

Cones The Norway spruce's cones are characteristic in that they are upright and sit high up in the tree. The cones from the previous year do not fall off completely, they retain an upright central axis.

The new cones are young and light green, they mature during autumn and change color to light brown-orange. They are between 12-15 cm in length and 3-4 cm thick. Close to last year's shoot are the small yellow male flowers.

Locations Forestry, gardens, grows wild in forests. Breeds naturally in Denmark.

Collection Norway spruce usually shoots in mid-May, the shoots can be harvested when the bud scales are loose or have completely fallen off.

Lark - intro, appearance and characteristics

European larch , Larix decidua

Larch is a conifer up to 40 m tall with an upright and slender growth. The branches sit in wreaths around the trunk. Therefore, larch trees are often very good climbing trees. On the young trees, the bark is grayish. When the tree is about 20 years old, a stronger crusty bark is formed.

Skud Lærk has both short shoots and annual shoots. Short shoots replace last year's fallen needles and are small short tufts in the middle of the branches. Annual shoots are the tree's annual growth. Annual shoot ends are mainly found at the branch end as long, thick tufts that become new branches.

Cones The cones sit upright, often many in a row. The young cones are green or red-violet. The mature cone is brown, 2.5 – 4 cm long and 1.5 – 2 cm wide. The cones can sit for several years. The cone scales are thin and close together. The cone scales are outwardly bent at the tip and wavy at the edge.

Locations Gardens, plantations, parks, forestry and forests

Collection Larch usually shoots at the end of April. Use the fresh shoots on your smørrebrød.

Funny story In Gribskov lives the court lark. It is 233 years old and the mother tree for over 2 million larch trees in Denmark. In the 1920s, many European larch trees became ill with a cancer disease. The Japanese lark was resistant to this disease, but the beautiful courthouse lark did not get sick either. It was selected to be the rootstock in a hybrid between the two lark species. From 1946-58, 85 kg of hybrid larch tree seeds were harvested from its crosses. The courthouse lark is one of the 10 natural sights in the canon in Gribskov.

She is also called the lark's beauty queen.


The pine genus ( Pinus ) is a large genus with approx. 100 species of conifers. All species are evergreen and the genus is widespread from the tree line in northern Norway to sandy areas in the tropical zone. The genus is known for the needles sitting in bundles on dwarf shoots. There can be 2 (most common in Denmark), 5 or 3 (rare) needles in each bundle. The hard cones are either barrel-shaped or very slender and banana-shaped.

Only one species of pine, Scots pine, is native to Denmark, but it has been here for a long time. Larger deposits of pine pollen are known from the Preboreal period (9,300-7,900 BC), which is also called the "Birch-Pine Age", but also from the earlier Allerød period (11,800-10,600 BC) nice deposits are known, and finally there are scattered finds all the way back to the Bølling period (12,800 – 11,800 BC). Scots pine is thus one of the trees that has been in Denmark for the longest time - much longer than both oak and beech.

However, the instances of Scots pine found in Denmark today are not instances of the original population, as Scots pine was exterminated in Denmark at the end of the Middle Ages - possibly with the exception of a smaller population on Læsø, and perhaps only one single tree, the so-called "Bangsbo Guy".

Bangsbofyrren is the name of the pine tree that is considered to be the last survivor of the original Danish population. The tree stands on private land at Bangsbogårde, a locality in Hals Parish on Læsø, and it is still in good, physical condition. The tree is today protected.

The tree was planted in 1752, and in 1965 it was measured at approx. 10 meters high with a trunk circumference of 2.02 m. When re-examined in 2007, these measurements were slightly, but not surprisingly, much larger.

It is known that Poul Vinther brought in the very young tree from the heath on Læsø. At that time, the island's original forest was almost completely destroyed, and the remains consisted of birch and red alder. The later planting with i.a. pine trees were first introduced in the early 1900s. Therefore, there is agreement that the wood is of original, Danish provenance.

Today, however, you also find a number of other pine species in Denmark, some in large numbers. They were planted from the end of the 18th century, first to help combat the sand fly in North Zealand and West Jutland, but later also used in plantations on the poorest lands during the attempt to cultivate the heath. Finally, these species are often seen on highway slopes, as they are robust to both pollution and salt, and grow slowly. It mainly concerns these species:

  • Dune pine ( Pinus contorta )
  • Mountain pine ( Pinus mugo )
  • Beach pine ( Pinus pinaster )

Wood pine - intro, appearance and characteristics

It is best known for its prickly needles that sit in pairs, as well as the wide cone-shaped cones and the scent bombardment that meets you when it blooms in May. The pine tree is special in that it produces both male and female flowers for the reproduction of a winged seed. The seed falls to the ground or is carried by the wind to other areas, where it sprouts into new trees. The tree can grow up to 80 m high and 250-300 years old.

Collection The young light green shoots are collected/sipped in May–June.

Spruce needles can be used instead of rosemary on pizza or as a fresh and light green sprinkle in the salad.

Pine needle locations Beach, Forest, Gardens, Skel. Common throughout Denmark. In Denmark, Scots pine is the most common. The pine trees we have in Denmark are imported from other Nordic countries and the Baltics. If you want to hug a real Danish pine, you must go to Samsø, where you will find the Bangsbo pine.

Funny Stories The Vikings put pine needles under their bed sheets against lice, fleas and all kinds of rheumatic pain. I even remember how my grandmother got pine needles in her bathtub.

Did you know that amber, also called the gold of the north, consists of the resin from precisely pine trees that grew several thousand years ago?

An archaeological find at Slagelse tells us that the Vikings made their shields from pine wood.

Conifers - shoots, active substances and their effect

From ancient times, pine needle shoots were used for scurvy due to their high content of

Vitamin C. In addition to abundant amounts of C vitamins, pine needles contain shoots

Vitamin A. These vitamins act as antioxidants and help treat viral infections and boost the immune system. The needles contain bitter substances that have a stimulating effect on digestion and increase blood flow. Pine needles have an antiseptic effect and help in the treatment of coughs and colds. It is astringent and thus has great value in skin care.

An aroma steam bath strengthens and harmonizes breathing and relieves breathing difficulties. Plant extracts from the pine needles are used i.a. externally for rheumatism and sciatica.

The spruce family contains largely the same active ingredients. This way you can use the needles that are available and appeal to you.


Pine needle tea, easy recipe

Pine needle tea tastes quite excellent and is very healthy. Pine needles contain plenty

Vitamin C and vitamin A and thus has a strengthening effect on the immune system.

Pick 2 good handfuls of fresh needles and shoots. Rinse the needles and chop them lightly with a knife or throw them in a coffee grinder. Put the needles and 2/3 liter of water in a saucepan. Bring the water to the boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Add any good quality honey.

Try doing something different than you usually do; make the tea over a fire instead of on the stove. It is said that pregnant women should not drink pine needle tea.

A pine needle bath strengthens, cleanses and soothes the skin. And has an invigorating effect on the mind. The same beneficial effect as a walk in the forest. I can recommend such a bath for sad skin, exhaustion, restless mind and joint pain.

Storage and durability
You put your cooled needle extract on glass and store in a dark, cold place, if necessary. in the fridge. Can last a good week.

Fir and pine needles have for many years been widely used in soap, shampoo and other bath products, due to their cleansing and refreshing effect.

Pine needles shampoo - for healthy and shiny hair

Oil extracted from pine needles as the fatty phase in a shampoo.

Fill a glass jar 2/3 full with fresh pine needles. Pour oil over until it covers all the needles. Use a neutral oil such as almond or rapeseed oil.

Cover the jar with gauze and place it in a sunny window. Stir the jar every day. After two weeks, say off the herbs. If the extraction is felt too weak, the process can be repeated.

Use the same oil but with fresh pine needles.

Spruce syrup

6 dl fresh shoots
4 dl sugar
4 dl water

Rinse the shoots thoroughly and put them together with the water in a pot, let it simmer for fifteen minutes, switch off and let it steep overnight.

Cranberry lemonade

4-6 cups

2 organic limes
4 organic lemons
1 dl spruce syrup
Approx. 1 liter of water

You will need that
1 mixing bowl
1 dl measure
1 grater
Possibly. citrus press
1 jug

Squeeze the citrus fruits, you can also grate a little peel. Mix in the spruce syrup. Pour in the water a little at a time. Dilute with water to taste.

Spruce vinegar - for cooking

4 dl apple cider vinegar
3 dl fresh fir shoots

You must use this
1 jam jar
1 bottle
1 see

Rinse the fresh light green shoots if necessary. from red spruce. Pat the shoots dry with a clean tea towel. Place the fir shoots in a scalded and dry glass and pour the vinegar over. Put the lid on and let it steep for approx. 2-3 weeks, preferably in a sunny place. Then strain the shoots. Pour the spruce vinegar into a scalded and dry bottle and close. Use the spruce vinegar as a dressing by mixing it with good sunflower oil, a small splash of spruce vinegar gives a fantastic taste in stews and sauces.

Spruce skin tonic

Mix a tablespoon of spruce vinegar together with approx. 2 dL water. Dab your face with the toner after cleansing. The natural acids of the spruce vinegar will stimulate the circulation in your skin. The astringent and antiseptic effect of the spruce will reduce and clean the pores in the skin.

Pomegranate oil

3 dl fresh shoots
2 ½ dl oil (neutral taste)
1 teaspoon of salt

Shoot the shoots and pat them dry. Heat the oil slowly to approx. 70 degrees. Add the fresh shoots and salt to the blender. Pour in the hot oil and blend the ingredients to a fine mass. Let it soak in the fridge for a day in a glass with a lid. Strain the oil through fine cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Granola pesto

3 dl fresh shoots
2 dl of oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 dl hazelnuts
1 dl grated Parmesan cheese

You will need that
1 dl measure
1 tsp Blender
Deep bowl

Rinse the shoots. Put it all in the bowl and blend to a suitable consistency.