Juniper, Juniperus communis
Junipers are thought to be the world’s most widespread tree species. They can live for several hundred years, and even thousand-year-old junipers have been found.
Juniper berries and annual shoots are used in wines, beers and food. The twigs and branches can also be used in smoking foods for added flavour. When using juniper, however, it’s important to remember that it is classified as slightly toxic.
Something to try
Add a tablespoon of dried juniper berries, or a whole twig of juniper berries (about 10 cm), to a bottle of white wine vinegar. You could also add in some lemon rind or chilli. Allow to infuse for at least a week before using, for example, in vinaigrettes or other salad dressing.
Gathering the plants
Junipers bloom and produce berries in a growth environment that gets plenty of sunlight. Juniper berries that are suitable for use in food or drink are berries that are bluish black and come from plants that are at least three years old. The berries are best picked in September-October.
Other interesting facts
Because juniper bushes are coniferous, the “berries” are strictly speaking cones. However, they are almost always called berries.
People with kidney conditions should avoid foods or drinks that contain or have been flavoured with juniper berries. Any such foods or drinks should also be avoided during pregnancy. Nobody should use juniper berries in any form for more than two weeks at a time.