Juniper berries have been in use since the time of the Greeks. They have had many uses from medicinal to culinary for hundreds of years. If you have access to this interesting spice, you can use juniper berries in a number of different ways, from seasoning food to being used as a diuretic. However, fresh juniper berries can be dangerous to ingest for those with kidney problems or those who are pregnant.
Raw juniper berries can be eaten as a home remedy for gout and arthritis as long as the sufferer does not have kidney problems or is pregnant. They are said to help stimulate the appetite and relieve indigestion and flatulence. The diuretic effect of raw juniper berries is caused by terpinen-4-ol, the active ingredient in the raw berries. Once dried, terpinen-4-ol is no longer active in the juniper berries.
Juniper berries are used as a flavoring ingredient in gin. Juniper berries give gin the slightly pine-like taste. Juniper berries are also used to flavor other liqueurs as well.
Juniper berries can be crushed fresh and used in marinades for a variety of meats, from wild game like venison and rabbit to beef and pork. Goulash can also be flavored with juniper berries. Dried juniper berries can be crushed and used in meat marinades, but they are not as flavorful as fresh juniper berries. Once exposed to air, the juniper berry flavor starts to decline.
Juniper berries add flavor to hearty vegetables like potato dishes and sauerkraut. They can be either fresh or dried juniper berries, but only a small amount is needed. Only three to four berries will flavor a whole dish.
Juniper berries are used to make tea for health purposes, mostly as a diuretic and antiseptic for the urinary tract.
Juniper berries go well with the following spices: thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, bay leaf and garlic. The spices can be combined into a sauce or marinade. Either dried or fresh juniper berries can be used in this case.
Juniper berries can be used to make purple and brown dyes for clothing.