Juniper Berry

Juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of Juniper. It is fleshy with merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance, but it is not a true berry. The cones by certain species, especially from Juniperus communis, are used as a spice in European cuisine, and also gin its distinguishing flavor.

All juniper species grow berries, but some are considered too bitter to eat. Besides Juniperus communis, other edible species include Juniperus drupacea, Juniperus oxycedrus, Juniperus phoenicea, Juniperus deppeana, and Juniperus Californica. Some species, such as Juniperus sabina bear cones which are toxic and consumption is inadvisable.

Juniperus communis berries are varied in sizes, from 4-12 mm, other species have mostly similar sizes of berries, though some are larger, such as J. drupacea which bears 20-28 mm diameter berries. A juniper berry remain fleshy and merge into a unified covering surrounding the seeds. Young berries are green, maturing to a purple-black color in about 18 months in most species. Mature berries are usually but not exclusively used in cuisine, while gin is flavored with fully grown but immature green berries.

Juniper berries are used in northern European and particularly Scandinavian cuisine to impart a sharp, clear flavor to meat dishes, especially wild birds ( thrush, blackbird, and woodcock) and also game meat (boar and venison). The berries are also used to season pork, cabbage, and sauerkraut dishes. Juniper berries are also used in German, Austrian, Czech and Hungarian cuisine, often with roasts.

Juniper berries are a diuretic and an appetite stimulant and a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis. Essential oil extracted from juniper berries is used in aromatherapy and perfumery, and to flavor gin.

Juniperus scopulorum berriesJuniperus scopulorum berries
Author: MPF (public domain)

Juniperus phoenicea berriesJuniperus phoenicea berries
Author: Tintazul (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

Juniperus communis berries - both ripe and unripeJuniperus communis berries - both ripe and unripe
Author: MPF (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

Juniperus virginiana berriesJuniperus virginiana berries
Author: Quadell (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Juniperus oxycedrus subsp. badia - mature berriesJuniperus oxycedrus subsp. badia - mature berries
Author: Javier martin (public domain)

Juniperus deppeana berriesJuniperus deppeana berries
Author: MPF (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Juniperus californica berriesJuniperus californica berries
Author: Joe Decruyenaere (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Toxic berries of Juniperus sabinaToxic berries of Juniperus sabina
Author: Llez (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0-unported)

Juniperus maritimaJuniperus maritima
Author: Walter Siegmund (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0-unported)

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