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How to Eat Juniper Berry

By Sophie Johnson ; Updated September 21, 2017

A member of the cypress family, junipers (genus Juniperus) produce an unusual cone that ends up looking like a fruit; this "fruit" is known as a juniper berry. Juniper berries start off green, but ripen to a blue-black color. Ripening can take up to three years. These ripe berries are bitter and astringent, so juniper berries aren't eaten off the tree; rather, they're added to recipes during cooking. Trees and shrubs are usually male or female, so you need more than one to get a crop of berries. Junipers are evergreens.

In Liquids

Prepare your marinade or sauce as you normally would, but replace each bay leaf with four berries. Since venison, boar, pork, duck and goose take well to juniper, marinades and sauces intended for these meats are a natural fit for the berry.

Add six berries per pound of meat to the water for boiled ham. You might increase that to about six berries per half-pound of meat if you enjoy the taste.

Add three to four berries to the water for boiled whole cabbage.

For Tea

Bring a cup of water to a boil.

Crush about 12 berries with the flat of a knife blade.

Take the water off the heat, and add the berries.

Steep 10 minutes.

Strain the water into the tea cup or mug.

Add honey to taste.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Dried juniper berries
  • Marinade or sauce recipe that would normally contain bay leaf
  • Ham
  • Cabbage
  • Knife
  • Strainer
  • Tea cup or mug
  • Honey

Tips

  • You will have to experiment with how many juniper berries you add to dishes because the flavor is distinctive and some might find it overpowering. Be conservative in how much you use at first, then increase the amount in your dish. If adding to a stew or any dish with other flavorings, only start with about three or four.
  • Juniper berries flavor gin. If you don't like the taste of gin, you might not like the berries married to the flavors of your foods.
  • If you want to use fresh juniper berries, use less than suggested (start with two-thirds to half as much) because the flavor will be stronger.
  • Add juniper berries to the cavities of unstuffed game birds being cooked, along with other spices like thyme.

Warning

  • Only eat juniper if you are healthy. Those with compromised kidneys especially should not eat juniper berries since they have a strong diuretic property. Pregnant women and young children should also avoid the berries, which are still being studied for their benefits and adverse effects. If you have any preexisting conditions, consult your doctor before consuming juniper.

About the Author

 

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.