Some tribes cooked juniper berries into a mush and dried them in cakes for winter use. The berries were also dried whole and ground into a meal that was used to make mush and cakes. In ties of famine, small pieces of the butter bark or a few berries could be chewed to suppress hunger. Dried, roasted juniper berries could have been ground and used as a coffee substitute and teas were occasionally made from the stems, leaves and or berries but these concoctions were usually as a medicines rather than beverages.
Tricky Mary’s can be made by soaking juniper berries in tomato juice for a few days and then following your usual recipe for Bloody Marys, but omitting the gin. The taste is identical and the drink is non-alcoholic.
G rows to 1 m tall but is normally lower than this. Growth habit is branching, prostrate, trailing, forming wide mats 1-3 m in size. Leaves are needle-like, dark green above, whitish below, prickly 1.5 cm long, in whorls of 3. Bark reddish brown, scaly, thin, shredding. Grows on dry, open sites and forest edges, gravelly ridges and muskeg from lowland bogs to plains and subalpine zones.
A low shrub (seldom over 25cm tall) with trailing branches. Leaves scale-like, tiny, in 4 vertical rows, lying flat against the branch. Grows in dry, rocky soils in sterile pastures and fields.
A rarer species, and grows to 15 m tall. Leaves opposite, 5-7 mm long, in 4 vertical rows, young leaves often needle-like, but mature leaves tiny an scale-like. Grows on dry, rocky ridges, open foothills, grasslands and bluffs.
Juniper berries can be quite sweet by the end of their second summer on the plant or in the following spring, but they have a rather strong, “pitchy” flavour that some people find distasteful. They can be added as flavouring to meat dishes (recommended for venison and other wild game, veal and lamb), soups and stews, either whole, crushed or ground and used like pepper. Rocky mountain juniper springs were also sometimes placed amongst dried salmon or other stored foods to protect these against attack from insects and flies.
edible, but with caution
Small fleshy cones (“berries”) are ripe when bluish-purple to bluish-green colour
Berries form from May to June on Female plants only and mature the following year, but are present on the plant all year round.
Coniferous, evergreen shrubs or small trees, to 20 m tall, with some species creeping low on the ground. Leaves scale-like, opposite, 105 mm long, in rows, dark green to yellowy. Male plants produce yellow pollen on cones 5 mm long. Females bear small 5-9 mm -wide berries, first green and maturing to a bluish-purple colour. Grows on open, dry rocky areas and grasslands.
Juniper berry tea has been used to aid digestion, stimulate appetite, relieve colic and water retention, treat diarrhea and heart, lunch and kidney problems, prevent pregnancy, stop bleeding, reduce swelling and inflammation and calm hyperactivity. The berries were chewed to relieve cold symptoms, settle upset stomaches and increase appetite. Oil-of-juniper (made from the berries) was mixed with fat to make a salve that would project wounds from irritation by flies. Juniper berries are reported to stimulate urination by irritating the kidneys and will give the urine a violet-like-fragrance. They are also said to stimulate sweating, mucous secretion, production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and contractions in the uterus and intestines. Some studies have shown juniper berries to lower blood sugar caused by adrenaline hyperglycemia, suggesting that they may be useful in the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes. Juniper berries have also antiseptic qualities, and studies by the National Cancer Institute have shown that some junipers contain antibiotic compounds that are active against tumours. Strong juniper tea has been used to sterilize needles and bandages, and during the Black Death in the 14th century Europe, doctors held a few berries in the mouth as they believed that this would prevent them from being infected by patients. During cholera epidemics in North America,m some people drank and bathed in juniper tea to avoid infection. Juniper tea has been given to women in labour to speed delivery, and after the birth it was used as a cleansing healing agent.