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Foraging and Harvesting Juniper Berries  RSS feed

 
Anne Miller
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So I foraged a bunch of juniper berries off our Ashe Juniper  Juniperus ashei today. The smell of the cedar was lovely!  What do I do with them?

Juniper berries are not real berries,. they are cones with scales so miniature and packed down that you can't see the scales so they appear as round berries. Only the female tree makes the berries, while the male just has little brown cones.

Juniper berries are known as the flavoring in gin, the flavoring can be very strong. Native American Indians used the berries, sometimes eating them whole and also crushed as a spice for soups, meats, and stews. They also ground the berries into flour and used them to make mush or bread. Juniper berries were used by the Native American Indians as a blood tonic to alleviate symptoms of anemia and re-energize the body, juniper berries were a cure-all for the common cold, flu, and other aches and pains.

The berries can be eaten dried, fresh, chopped, or powdered to impart a sharp, peppery flavor to balance the richness of game, meats, soups, and stews.  They are also used to flavor stuffing, marinades and stews. Right before using the berries, you can also grind and sprinkle them on meats as a seasoning, or make a juniper sugar.  Nevertheless, juniper is commonly used with lamb (or mutton) and is particularly good with venison, wild boar, and even domestic pork.  Frequently used marinades for lamb and pork before grilling. Again, this is because the delicate resinous flavor goes well with smoke flavors but without being as offensive as cooking over pine would be. New and creative uses for juniper berries include creating gin-substitute or tinctures for drinks, in a glaze for ginger cookies, and in Scandinavian spice mixtures used for curing meats and fish.

If you’ve ever tried gin you’ll have a fair idea of what juniper berries taste like, although the ones used for cooking are riper. They have a slightly piney flavor with a touch of both fruitiness and pepperiness. Most like rosemary if you looking for a comparison,  but more resinous and with citrus overtones (so if you're subbing rosemary for juniper, add a bit of lemon juice too).

Simply pluck the berries from the branches, dry roast them in a 250-degree oven until they shrivel a bit, turn black and become crumbly, cool,  then you may store them in an airtight container for months. When you’re ready to use them, grind them in a clean coffee or spice grinder.
Or just put a tablespoon or so in a zippered bag and lightly crush them with meat mallet, hammer, or wine bottle. Once flattened, dump them on a cutting board and chop them finely with a chef's knife before adding to your dish or marinade.

Medicinal uses, which includes treating diabetes, cold symptoms, swollen joints, stiff neck or back, swollen legs, eye diseases, fever, headache, dizziness, diarrhea, and are diuretic.  From an emotional well-being standpoint, juniper is commonly used to reduce the effects of anxiety and stress by helping to dispel emotions such as insecurity, loneliness, sadness and guilt. As an essential oil, it blends well with grapefruit, cypress and fennel.

More info on the Ashe Juniper:

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/ethnobot/images/juniper.html

http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=JUASThe

Some recipes I found:


The spice rub in this recipe can be used on a variety of meats, including pork, venison, beef and chicken. Once combined, the spice mix can be stored for several weeks in an airtight container.
For the spice rub:
2 T. dried juniper berries
1 T. black peppercorns
2 T. dried chili pequins
1 T. fennel seeds
3 T. coarse salt
1 T. dried sage
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. sugar
To make the rub, add the juniper berries, peppercorns, chili pequins and fennel seeds to a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind together. Mix with the remaining spice rub ingredients.


Juniper Tincture & simple syrup
Makes about 15 drinks

3/4 ounce crushed juniper berries 1 teaspoon lavender flowers 1/2 cup Everclear neutral grain spirit or 1 cup of hot water for simple syrup

Crush your juniper berries in a pestle and mortar to better release their oils, add them to a screw top container such as a mason jar with the lavender and Everclear. Screw on the lid and give a good shake. Store in a warm dark pace for about a week, give a good shake once a day until your week is up. if making the juniper simple syrup, add ingredients to a small pan and simmer for about 15 minutes, take off heat and and let sit covered for a couple of hours.  Strain both versions through a coffee filter so you are just left with the infused liquid. For the tincture store in an airtight container and use a dropper to add to your drinks. For the juniper syrup add 1 cup cane sugar to liquid and allow to dissolve, store in an airtight container in the fridge, last for up to 2 weeks. add to your favorite lemonade or ice tea recipes

Some more recipes:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/juniper_berries




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Juniper Berries
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Ashe Juniper
 
Destiny Hagest
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I love Juniper so much, and harvest it pretty frequently - such a beautiful treat to take home from the forest, and the smell is incredible.

Most recently I've used them to make a nice chicken rub - I ground them up with a few peppercorns, added some salt and garlic, and a bit of thyme if I remember right. That with a white wine sauce was pretty amazing.

Though I can't attest to the science behind this, I always had a feeling that these little berries would be great for skin inflammation and infection, so when I was pregnant I steeped some in almond oil on top of my wood stove for a few days, and then used that in his "butt balm", a cream made of beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, and this oil. It clears up his rashes so much. Since we cloth diaper, I also use it in the spray bottle of water we use for poops - just a teaspoon per 8 ounces. He had his first minor rash recently, and the combination worked like a charm.

They're so beautiful, I just love keeping jars of them around the house, and digging into them once in a while for a project.
 
Gay Hullar
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Juniper berries are also good tossed in with your cabbage when making sauerkraut.
 
Daniel Schneider
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Hej hej!

I generally dry them at a much lower temperature-maybe 20-25C (I basically put them in a broad, shallow bowl on top of the furnace for a coupl of days). When they're dried this way they keep the sweet component of their flavour.

  I use juniper a lot in sausages with crab apples and onions or garlic, in reindeer stew, with bluberries, and in tjälknöl (kind of a slow-cooked pot roast: it's traditionally made of moose, but I've used beef quite successfully)

You can also make a soda/"beer" of juniper: take enough branches smaller than about 1/4 inch thick, at least some should have berries on (they can be green) to fill a handled paper shopping bag, put them in a big pot and cover with water. simmer them for about an hour, and strain into a bucket. Mix in about 1 dl (between 1/3 and 1/2 a cuo ) of sugar per liter (about a quart) of the juniper 'tea' and throw in a packet of bread yeast. let sit overight in a warm place to let the yeast start working, then pour/siphon into bottles THAT CAN HANDLE PRESSURE. this is carbonated, so the bottles need to be able to handle it: I generally use either plastic soda bottles, or the swing-top bottles I put my homebrew in. For soda, just let it sit a couple of days to carbonate, and then drink, for 'beer' (I think it actually tastes more like cider), either open the bottles once or twice a day, to relieve the pressure, for maybe a week, and then taste it. If it tastes good, and seems to have a good amount of alchohol in, drink it; if it's too sweet, or weak, continue relieving the pressure and tasting  until you like it.
 
Richard Kniffin
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I second the notion of adding juniper berries to your sauerkraut- I've been told that it's a traditional method. You don't need very many berries though, they're strong. Speaking of strength, don't overdose on juniper in any form. You might want to search for "juniper toxicity", "juniper while pregnant", "juniper health risks", etc, to make sure you're being careful enough with this powerful medicine.

All the sources I've seen say that women should not ingest any juniper at all if they're pregnant, or wanting to become pregnant.

One more thing about juniper that I have not seen mentioned in this thread is that it can combat urinary tract infections.

I dry my berries on trays at room temperature with no problems, and after a couple of overzealous foraging expeditions, I have a supply that should last many years! Juniper is a fun wild edible for all experience levels.
 
Destiny Hagest
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Really excellent point Richard - that's something I learned when I was pregnant too. As I recall, you also have to be careful with it around the little ones, and animals (though they seldom touch the stuff). It strikes me as something along the lines or tea tree that's just really strong and bacteria-fighting, but it definitely has a nice aroma and taste.
 
Anne Miller
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Destiny Hagest wrote: animals (though they seldom touch the stuff).



Our "pet" deer and her baby come almost everyday about 5 pm to eat juniper berries.  We had two does that were very friendly ones this year.  They made us their pet.  One disappear early but the other one has missed being shot so far.
 
Destiny Hagest
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Really? That surprises me, I've never seen any animals touch them around here (we have some patches that are very close to game trails that I frequently harvest from). I guess I just assumed they didn't care for the taste, since it was so potent?
 
Casie Becker
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I'm one of those people who suffer from 'cedar fever' each winter. I wonder if eating the berries could train my body out of that reaction, or if it's a warning that I shouldn't touch them at all? You all make them sound so delicious. Rosemary and lemon are one of my favorite cooking combinations.
 
Anne Miller
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Casie, I assume 'cedar fever' is an allergy.  Have you tried apple cider vinegar and local honey mixed 50/50? Some years ago I had an allergy to something.  I would wake up about 2:00 am sneezing.  I started using vinegar/honey when I had symptoms and the allergy went away.  I took a tablespoon when ever I needed and as how often I needed.  I never found out what I had been allergic to.  This mix is also good for helping sleep.

We have lots of cedar.  I have noticed a difference in their color this time of year.  The ones with the blue berries [female] have a more green color.  The ones with the little cones [male]  have a brown color to them and they are the ones that give off the pollen.
 
Casie Becker
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That's right, it's an allergy. In this area the male trees dump so much pollen that it's common for the fire department to field calls about 'wild fires' because that's how thick it hangs in the air. When I was a child I used to run around hitting the trees with a stick to make them 'explode.' I absolutely deserve my allergies now.

I do use local honey, but not apple cider vinegar. It's on my list to eventually start. We use vinegar very sparingly but buy in bulk. I can't imagine using either honey or vinegar in such strong concentrations. I treat both as seasoning rather than ingredients.

I'm considering making a trip to the woods to get a few berries to experiment with. If the trace amounts of pollen in honey can decrease allergy symptoms, it might be worth finding out how eating the fruit as a spice would work. I'm just worried that it would be more comparable to inhaling a face full of the pollen.
 
Rebecca Norman
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And, what's the method for getting juniper seeds to germinate? Junipers are rare and old in my region of the Himalayas, and nobody knows how to propagate them. I've planted seed in containers a few times, but no luck. Any tips?
 
robert e morgan
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for sprouting juniper berries . i think they may have to pass through a bird . the cedar waxwing birds eat the berries from my neighbor's trees and come to my bird water.
the next year i had many sprouts in my garden.
 
wayne fajkus
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Ditto. Lol. Anywhere a bird perches,  look down. There's cedars.
 
wayne fajkus
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Oh, I can confirm that deer and foxes eat the berries
 
Anne Miller
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About growing juniper from seed.  I can't find the berries on the trees.  They have fallen off or the wind blew them off.  I would be afraid the ones on the ground may be deteriorating. 

I have loads of the little cones, which are easier to grow from.  Right now they are very tiny. At the appropriate time they fall off into our planters and sprout.  Around April or May, I am guessing.  Look for the juniper trees that have a more brown tint.  These are the male trees with the cones. If you look around the trees about 3-5 ft from the drip line you might be able to find some sprouts later on.
 
Casie Becker
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I always thought the berries were immature cones. If you look at the plants that produce the cones, before they dry out and open they are tight little balls that look like berries with scales. Since I only every harvest cedar to use as greenery in floral arrangements (until my allergies developed) I may have just not been paying enough attention.
 
Anne Miller
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Right now they look like tiny brown specs, oblong, a little bigger than a pepper seed but smaller than rice krispies.  When I pulled a branch down to get a better look the cones started falling off and some crumbles in my hand. 

The berries are bigger and blue/purple.  A few of them sprout on my front patio, but I can't say if they laid there for years or were from bird poop.

You can tell the difference in the male and female trees.  The females are a bright green and I don't think they give off pollen.  The males have the darker brown tint when they have cones and I think they are the ones that give off the pollen.  Around Christmas the kids were playing with their drone and the pollen looked like the trees were on fire with all the "smoke" coming off them.
 
Ian Rule
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Casie - mayhaps you could do a home allergy test? Just rub juniper mush on a small spot on your arm and let it sit for a bit. I go from mildy allergic to direly allergic with poison oak, so when mangos come around I usually rub some on myself like an idiot to see if it irritates before I eat it and get a mouth/headache.

Now, looking cool? Cant help ya there.
 
Casie Becker
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Oh, there's no doubt I'm allergic. It's a common seasonal allergy, here. Heard a solution a few weeks ago on "The Natural Gardner", which is an organic gardening program. I've marked it on my calendar to try next year.

Oct 15th
Boil one cup of needles in four cups of water
Mix 30 drops of the result into water and drink

It's supposed to instantly prevent cedar allergies for that year. A caller shared the recipe and said he was one of the people who had nasal surgery due to allergies and hasn't had a problem since he started the tea. He got it from one of the founders of The American Botanical Council, which is actually based in Austin. They have a small demonstration garden of medicinal herbs that's open to visitors.
 
Anne Miller
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Ashe Juniper from Wikipedia
It is a dioecious species, with separate male and female plants. The seed cones [berries] are round, 3 to 5 millimetres (0.12 to 0.20 in) long, and soft, pulpy and berry-like, green at first, maturing purple about 8 months after pollination. They contain 1-2 seeds, which are dispersed when birds eat the cones and pass the seeds in their droppings. The male cones are 3–5 mm long, yellow, turning brown after pollen release in December to February.

The description of the cones is correct except our cones are only about 1/2 mm.

Thanks for the recipe.  I don't know if we are allergic though have some slight discomfort.
 
Ian Rule
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Neat! Funny how many pragmatic ideas come around in absence of "go buy some drugs or cream".

I didnt mean to see if you're allergic to cedar pollen, but the juniper berries. Try out the arm test to see if you can consume them safely - to further unravel the cedar misery.
 
Anne Miller
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Will Juniper Berries Ease Joint Pain?

Q. When I read about the gin-soaked raisins solution for arthritis pain, I wondered why I would need the raisins and the gin and not just the juniper berries. You specified that the gin had to be flavored with juniper to be effective.
I started chewing a few berries until they are pulp and then washing them down with water. (I bought them in the spice section of my supermarket.) Since I began this daily ritual, I don’t need any pain pills such as Advil and my arthritis pains have mostly disappeared.

A. There are many species in the juniper family. Some of their berries have both anti-inflammatory activity and pain-relieving potential (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Aug. 22, 2016).

These berries may also help with blood sugar and cholesterol control (International Scholarly Research Notices, online Nov. 11, 2014).  In the past, we have warned against eating juniper berries for fear that they might upset the stomach or irritate the kidneys. That may be true only of the berries of certain species, however. The primary species used as a flavoring agent for gin and as a kitchen spice is Juniperus communis.

https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2016/08/08/how-to-use-juniper-to-fight-arthritis/
 
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