JuniperJuniperus communisFam Cupressaceae
SPICE DESCRIPTIONJuniper berries are the fruit of a small tree widespread throughout Europe. The berries are fleshy and globular, measuring 7-1Omm (1/4-1/3in)
On drying and storing, the smooth shiny skin darkens to a purple black and becomes slightly wrinkled or indented. The unripe fruit is green. The interior flesh of the mature berry is brown-yellow and the brown seeds are crunchy but not hard. Juniper grows wild in Great Britain and the United States. In the country it can be freely picked, although caution is advisable due to the hostile spikes on the plant. 'Sweet is the Junipere, but sharpe his bough' (Spenser, Amoretti 1594). Most commercial supplies are imported from southern Europe.
Bouquet: Fragrant and flowery, combining the aromas of gin and turpentine.
Flavour: Aromatic, bittersweet and piny. Eaten raw, they may make the breath redolent of gin.
Substitutes: Gin and bitters.
PREPARATION AND STORAGEIt is possible to make a puree from these berries or to extract the flavour and aroma by macerating them in hot water, but as all parts are edible and the texture is agreeable, it is usually just as well to use the entire fruit, split or crushed. The berries are quite powerful, one heaped teaspoon of crushed fruits serving for a dish for four people.
USESThe strong hearty flavour of juniper goes well with strong meats, such as game. It will flavour a stuffing suitable for small birds such as the wild birds eaten in Europe, wood pigeon, or small chickens. Venison, rabbit and wild boar profit from suggestion of it. Other meats may be enlivened - such as pork chops, joints of bacon, roast leg of lamb and veal. It can effectively be added to wine marinades for meats, and with coriander is used in smoking meat. It seasons pates and sauce and in Sweden is used in a preserve. Goulash and Sauerkraut often feature juniper taste, as do some home-pickle meats like salt beef,
ATTRIBUTED PROPERTIESMedicinal preparations involving juniper use the green unripe berries, whose properties are more pronounced than those of the ripe fruits.
Juniper is diuretic, stimulant, stomachic and carminative and is used in flatulence and colic. It was once believed to promote a healthy circulation of the blood and help combat rheumatism; in effect a grand panacea. Juniper oil is to be avoided in complaints of the genito-urinary tract as it is an irritant and may cause contraction of the uterus. It should not be given in pregnancy. Large doses of juniper cause the urine to smell of violets. Being it disinfectant and insectifugal, the berries are used in veterinary medicine to treat open wounds.
PLANT DESCRIPTIONAn evergreen, dioecious coniferous tree of the cypress family. The plant grows wildthroughout the northern hemisphere. In Britain, juniper generally reaches about 2m
(6ft) in height and is more like a shrub, but in Scandinavia it can reach 10m (33ft). Theleaves are dull green needles, very sharp, arranged in groups of three.
The male flowers are yellow and conical, the female green and rounded.
Soil: Lime, chalk or flintThe fruits are green throughout the first two years. Thereafter they ripen every two years, and at different times. Harvest from September to October and the berries must be dried below 35C (95F) to retain the essential oil.
REMARKSJuniper is widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere and its birthplace is obscure. It is found in Europe, North Africa, the United States and northern Asia. The main producers are Hungary and southern Europe, especially Italy. The berries were known to Greek, Roman and early Arab physicians as a medicinal fruit and are mentioned in the Bible. In the Renaissance, they were recommended against snake bite, and plague and pestilence. The fruit becomes more potent the further south it grows: Scandinavian juniper is weak compared with the Italian varieties. When picking the berries, gloves should be worn against the sharp spikes which protect the plant. The fruit is found in many different stages of maturity on the tree. Only the blue berries should be taken. The oil from the fruit is most famous in the manufacture of gin, also certain liqueurs and bitters. A Swedish beer is flavoured with the same extract. Cade oil, or juniper ta
J. virginiana, the red cedar or US juniper, provides furniture wood and oil used in insecticides and perfumery. The word 'gin' comes from Geneva, the Dutch for juniper.
OTHER NAMESJuniper Berry, Juniper Fruit
Spanish: enebro, junipero, nebrina
Indian: dhup, shur (Indian Juniper)