In the late spring the leaves of Spicebush can be harvested although we like to wait until the later months, after the fruits have developed, before we harvest our leaves so not to hinder the development of the fruits. The fruits are often fully developed by September and that's when we like to harvest most of our Spicebush leaves for use throughout the year. We dry them immediately and store them in sealed containers. They are superb in tea and they have a raspberry-like taste. The leaves do not hold up to long, hot cooking and so should be used with consideration for their sensitive flavors.
Branches in Winter
Once the fruits have developed but are still green, they have an excellent sharp and pungent flavor something like pink peppercorns. As the fruits ripen, the thin flesh sweetens considerably and the pungency of the seed develops. These can be harvested into the fall. The berries and leaves seem to drop at about the same time.
To preserve the berries, we like to take the fresh berries and blend them up with salt and then dry the mix. This is a good way to preserve the flavor and prevent the seed oils from turning rancid. They are also very good if thoroughly dried and stored in an airtight container.
In the winter, when there is little else to be found, Spicebush branches can offer an exciting ingredient for the creative chef. When they are chewed the branches give off the delicious flavor so typical of Spicebush. This makes them perfect for using as a skewer or stick upon which to serve food morsels.
Male and Female Branches
The dried leaves can be used to be brewed into a phenomenal tea. I like to use about 5 leaves per cup and steep it for as long as possible with water that has rested after boiling. I find the flavor to have notes of raspberry.