I was at an agricultural market in Baia Mare, Romania and several vendors were selling this plant that looks like the tips of a pine tree. I didn't ask for a name and didn't handle it, so I can't tell you much beyond that each cluster of needles was about the size of a finger. Here's a picture: enter image description here

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    It might not be for food -- some people will put evergreen tips into bags as place them in bathrooms or other rooms just for the smell. – Joe Jun 14 '19 at 15:11
  • @Joe Would they explicitly choose the young unripe tips? I am just wondering because they are softer and probably contain more moisture which could in the end encourage mold. – Stephie Jun 16 '19 at 9:15
  • @Stephie : I don't know. I've never done it, so I don't know the specifics – Joe Jun 17 '19 at 11:11

That actually are tips of trees, probably spruce1. It’s this year’s new growth and a very seasonal product. The tips are harvested when the are (about) fully grown, but still light green and soft.

I can’t say for sure what the local customers would use them for, but one of the common uses in my area of the world is to make “honey”, i.e. a syrup by either layering the tips with sugar and let the sugar draw out the aromatic compounds or alternatively make a “tea” that’s them preserved with plenty of sugar and boiled down to a syrup. It’s both a honey substitute (it does resemble fir honey) and a folk medicine against colds and coughing. Other extracts are made with alcohol instead (or in combination with) sugar to create a liqueur, again served both for medical and culinary purposes.

1 This is not a botanical id. Various members of the genus Picea (spruce) and Abies (fir) are used, usually whatever grows locally and has a pleasant taste.

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    In North America, spruce tips are also used as a seasoning for grilled meats, or even cooked and eaten as a vegetable. – FuzzyChef Jun 14 '19 at 17:55
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    There's a chocolate shop here in Seattle that uses them for flavoring chocolate desserts too - getyourhotcakes.com. – James Moore Jun 15 '19 at 17:55
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    I can confirm that tips of pine trees (when still fresh and of a bright color), are commonly used in Romania to make a syrup to be used against the flu and against coughing, but mainly against throat pain. (I've used it myself plenty of times and it worked) – vsz Jun 16 '19 at 9:52
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    Spruce tips can also be used as a replacement for hops in beer! – Sandy Chapman Jun 16 '19 at 19:09

I'm French, and I happen to know someone that uses this kind of spruce tips to make alcohol.

It's well-known in the Alps region of France. People tend to use these things to make "sapinette" (which means "small spruce"), a liquor appreciated by many peoples. They let the spruce tips extract their flavour in a prepared-in-advance alcohol.

As for the final result, it most likely has a taste very close to spruce honey. People may like it or not. Its final degree of alcohol is around 35 - 40°.

During the fermentation

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    That’s the alcoholic extraction I mentioned in my answer. It can be made with or without sugar (or honey), depending on personal taste. Personally, I’d recommend some sweetness to balance and mellow out the resin taste. – Stephie Jun 15 '19 at 16:33
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    To add, the 18th century cooking channel by Townsends recently did an episode on a similar thing. youtube.com/watch?v=RgLC_DRd2cg – Daniel Park Jun 16 '19 at 23:38
  • Extracting flavour like that is also called "infusing" or "steeping" :) – wjandrea Jun 17 '19 at 19:52

They are called 'fir tree buds' ("muguri de brad") - young tips of branches. they are used to make a syrup that is believed to have health properties - antibiotic, antiseptic, metabolism stimulator, etc. (pic taken from this link: https://www.realitatea.net/sirop-muguri-de-brad_1939056.html )

enter image description here

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