Juniper Berries[ PURCHASE INFO ]
Juniper Berries: Juniper Berries are the berries of a small shrub that grows wild throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Not actually a berry, they are a type of pine cone with collapsed scales that gives them the appearance of a berry. Juniper berries are used primarily in the production of Gin. They contain volatile oils that are distilled into a clear liquid. Juniper Berries take 2 to 3 years to ripen so at any given time the bush will contain ripe and unripened berries. Ripe berries are a dark dusky blue, unripened berries are green. Volatile oil content of the ripe Juniper Berries can vary greatly from year to year, the berries are picked by hand and must be harvested at the proper ripeness or the volatile oils will turn resinous. The berries are usually dried which softens their bitter, piney flavor. When used for cooking a single Juniper Berry goes a long way, they are usually mashed or ground into a recipe and rarely used whole.
Juniper Berries have been found in Egyptian tombs, and were used by Egyptians as a hair coloring. There is some evidence that the berries were at least in part imported, most likely from Greece where they were used for medicinal purposes. Juniper Berries were the original performance enhancer, they were widley used during the Olympic games as they were believed to improve physical stamina. High in vitamin C and B, the berries are rumored to be an appetite enhancer. Today the berries are also known as a diuretic, they can help relieve water retention, urinary tract infections, and as a detoxifier. Use of the berries should be avoided during pregnancy, or if you have kidney problems. Popular with pet birds and a favorite of finches, the berries can be used in wild bird feeders with excellent results.