JUNIPER BERRIES

Clean, refreshing, piney and sometimes very bitter; juniper berries are an interesting component to your flavor repertoire. 

juniperJuniper berries are not actually berries, they are more closely related to a pine cone. If you look at a juniper berry very closely you will see that it has very fleshy, densely compact scales which give it the appearance of being a smooth berry. Juniper’s initial claim to fame was as a medicinal intervention. It was used as a diuretic and also an appetite suppressant by native American tribes.

From a culinary perspective the juniper berry enhances the complexity in broths and stews. It is a popular ingredient in many European cuisines. Its piney resin aids in the preservation of meat, which is why it is a main additive in traditional corned beef. (It must have some pretty amazing preservation qualities because it is also recorded as a prominent ingredient of the Egyptian embalming formula in the time of Pharaohs).  It is typically used in savory dishes but it also can be a really interesting ingredient in sweet dishes.  Lastly, Juniper is a main ingredient in gin...only sayin.

From a health perspective, juniper berries are antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-viral. There’s a reason pine cleaners are pine based, this is due to the pinene, which is a great chemical compound that also acts as an antioxidant. Juniper is also as mentioned, a diuretic, which also tones and detoxes the liver. Research suggests that it balances digestion, stimulating appetite if need be but also decreasing appetite when necessary. Juniper berries are also useful, according to research, for eliminating urinary tract infections or other kidney and bladder related issues. They are also jam packed with antioxidants that help fight free radicals and oxidative stress.   

 

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