Photo by Cherie Langlois
This is the time of year when our dark green Douglas fir trees flaunt new, spring-green needles from the tips of each bristling branch, and I always think about making fir tip jelly for future holiday gifts.
I think about this until spring slips by, and then forget about it until the following spring when those soft, bright needles appear again, bringing memories of a fir tip jelly sampled years ago and how the sweet, resinous fragrance and taste transported me to Christmas past. Santa’s-arriving-any time butterflies fluttering in my stomach and our darkened living room splashed with rainbow lights while I curled up near our Christmas tree.
As far back as I can remember, my family always had a plump Douglas fir, and to this day I can’t imagine inviting any other tree species into our home for the holidays.
This year, I vow to actually make fir tip jelly, not just think about it. So I find a recipe for spruce tip jelly that sounds like it will work, and during a rain-break, I grab a bowl and wade through wet grass to one of the towering firs at the back of our property.
For the next twenty minutes, I relax into the repetitive motion of pulling off fir tips and breathe in the happy, sappy scent of Christmas while the robins belt out spring songs. Every so often, I peer up through massive branches, marveling at this beautiful tree and how lucky I am to have this little acreage with big trees like this growing on it. I’m not sure how old the tree is, or how tall.
According to my guidebook, Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (Lone Pine, 2004), Douglas firs can live for over a 1,000 years (their thick bark helps them survive forest fires) and reach nearly 300 feet in height.
Just as I finish filling up my bowl, the cloud curtain drooping over the western sky lifts a fraction and sunshine angles in, transforming the trees to brilliant greeny-gold against gunmetal storm clouds. Even if I don’t get around to making the jelly, I think, this has been time so well spent.
But I will make this jelly. I’ll start the fir tips simmering right now—promise—and let you know how it turns out.