Spruce was a familiar flavoring in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially if you lived up north. It was found in tea, in beer, and perhaps most commonly in chewing gum—spruce gum was produced commercially all the way until the 1970s. “I have tended evening meetings up in Maine,” noted the writer Henry Wheeler Shaw in 1877, “and everybody was chewing gum except the minister.”
The taste of spruce resin is quite potent, described by one late-19th-century writer as “sweet, peculiar and balsamic.” In my experience, spruce engages not just the senses of smell and taste, but also a more primitive part of one’s brain, conjuring a dank and loamy forest. I’m mystified that a flavor this large and powerful has been forgotten by consumers.
Read more. [Image: Jeffrey Westbrook]