Learn all about juniper berries! Foraging juniper berries, juniper berry benefits, cooking with juniper berries, where to buy + 11 juniper berry recipes!
Living in Northern Arizona, where junipers are plentiful, I've built a strong relationship with these beautiful trees and figured it high-time I put a post together to share what I've learned and encourage others to build a relationship, too. Once you dive into the world of junipers and juniper berries, I believe you'll find a bit of magic in return. Enjoy!
What are Juniper Berries?
Juniper Berries are not actual berries, but rather, seed cones produced by a variety of juniper trees. Juniper trees are coniferous evergreens in the Cypress family. Most juniper species produce safe and edible juniper berries, such as Juniperus communis (Common Juniper), Juniperus deppeana Alligator Juniper and Juniperus californica (California Juniper). Some species such as Juniperus sabina (Savin Juniper) produce highly toxic juniper berries and should not be consumed. Always do your research before consuming! The berries can be used both fresh and dried.
Juniper berries ripen for 2-3 years. They are ready to pick when the tree has a large amount of ripe, mature berries that are blue in hue. If they are still green or bitter tasting, they are not quite ready. You will more commonly find trees ready for picking in the fall and winter. You can simply pluck the berries with your fingers to harvest or shake the tree (ripe berries fall from the tree more easily and are another great way to test that they are ready). Foraging juniper berries is a joy!
Where to Buy
Flavor + Using Juniper Berries
Traditionally, juniper berries are most well-known as the flavoring agent in gin. It is also a common pickling spice. Cooking with juniper berries can be immense fun! They have a somewhat sweet, evergreen-like flavor that is complex and kind of hard to pin down completely. Put simply—they are wonderfully unique!
Properties and Benefits
Juniper berries have a broad range of culinary, spiritual and medicinal uses and benefits. Some of these include:
- Supporting the health of the urinary tract system and acting as a powerful diuretic.
- Aromatherapeutic uses in the form of incense, essential oil and smudge sticks. Many cultures consider juniper to be cleansing and purifying.
- Being a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Having strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
- Being a great source of natural yeast, perfect for fermentation recipes.
11 Delicious Juniper Berry Recipes
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