Why you should care
Because these berries could get you out of your food and drink rut, and they might reduce inflammation.
Spice It Up is an original OZY series showcasing spices from around the world, in tasty snapshot form.
Clean, fruity and peppery. Just a few of the words used to describe these fun little berries, which, it turns out, are not berries. They are the female cones of juniper trees (Juniperus communis). These trees grow wild most places in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s hard to say when juniper berries became a culinary thing. And they are definitely a thing, especially in Scandinavian cuisine. They’re also used in German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian food.
They were first utilized for their medicinal properties in ancient Greece and lots of places thereafter. They’ve been said to help with everything from athletic stamina to arthritis, and have been used as an antimicrobial and diuretic. And of course, they’re helpful in getting people drunk: Juniper berries are what give gin — invented in the 17th century in the Netherlands — its ginny taste.
There are many hearty recipes out there involving potatoes and various meats that incorporate juniper berries. For those of you who prefer to drink your berries, try this recipe for a berry and rosemary juniper gin fizz from Jamieoliver.com. Or try it sans gin and report back. Godspeed!