Monday, 16 May 2011

Spruce shoots

I was delighted on Sat (May 14) to hear from Ian Edwards that Michelin -starred chef Andrew Fairlie had rung him to ask where he could obtain spruce shoots for his restaurant at Gleneagles. I have been campaigning for years to bring the culinary and aromatic qualities of this tree to public notice, from farmers markets to food events in Edinburgh. What seems finally to have done the trick is the emergence of Nordic food as the big new thing, via a Danish chef at Noma in Copenhagen. I have now contacted Andrew myself and await an order for our Zacharry's (sponsors of Moffat Book Events) organically-registered spruce shoots - a delicacy akin to Jersey potatoes, samphire and asparagus - and our other spruce-based products such as our spruce beer (above left). Ditto a visit from Ian to our brewery and distillery in the forest, in preparation for an item he is shooting for BBC TV's Countryfile programme in July. Meanwhile, Jim is busy in the forest making 2,500 bottles of spruce beer for Elly and me to take out to potential outlets within a 40 mile range of the forest - a triangle with Glasgow and Edinburgh to the north and Carlisle to the south. Andrea has suggested that we write a Spruce Cookbook - what a good idea.We are a 'start up' with a staff of four: Jim, Elly, me and Russell who can do anything from build you a house to brew you a beer. Our research and box-ticking on various certificates and clearances from authorities including the US Food and Drug agency goes back 10 years from a visit I paid to Sitka and spent time in the spruce forest with Native Americans learning what I could about their traditional uses for the tree, followed by much time picking up the threads from the European point of view. Spruce beer was brewed on board the ships exploring the west coast of America to ward off scurvy, ditto for the troops on the east coast of Canada when severe prolonged winters deprived British soldiers of access to Vitamin C -rich fruit or vegetables. Far earlier, there are records of spruce beer being drunk in medieval Northampton, where you will still be asked 'would you like a spruce?' - meaning a refreshing drink of any kind. You heard it here first.

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