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Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

By Andrew F. Smith

Published 2004

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Ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from young shoots of Norway spruce, drinking the beer for strength in battle, for fertility, and to prevent scurvy on long sea voyages. Introduced to spruce beer by the Vikings, European colonists were familiar with the beverage when they arrived in North America. Recipes for spruce beer are in the first American cookbooks. To prevent scurvy, eighteenth-century navies brewed the beer at sea using the decoction essence of spruce.
Native Americans and native Alaskans were the first Americans to use the inner bark, green tips, and new shoots of spruce for medical and culinary purposes. They chewed spruce resin for dental hygiene. In the early twenty-first century, native Alaskans harvest spruce tips as an indigenous vegetable. Alaska exports spruce-tip jelly and syrup as specialty food items.