There are both edible and poisonous junipers. You need to be aware of which berries are safe to eat.
The Juniperus communis berries are considered the best and the safest juniper berries for eating.
The berries, especially Juniperus communis, are commonly used as a spice.
All juniper species grow berries, but many of them are considered too bitter to eat and some are even toxic for you.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the taste and smell of Juniper Berries in a safe way!
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A Warning - Juniper Berries Can Be Toxic
Juniper berries exist in many different species.
When harvesting/picking your own juniper berries you have to be absolutely sure that you have the right kind. The juniperus communis. If you are not sure, leave and get your junipers some other way.
But even the juniperus communis, which is regarded as safe to eat, is still quite strong even at normal doses/amounts.
Juniper berries have a strong effect on the kidneys and can cause increased stress on them.
Read more about the toxicity of Juniper berries in our article “Are Juniper Berries Poisonous?”
The Taste Of Fresh Juniper Berries
The juniper berry has a unique taste.
We want to describe its taste as a musty flavor with a deep sweetness.
If you've tried gin, you have a fair idea of the taste of fresh juniper berry. Gin is a neutral spirit that is flavored predominantly with Juniper.
The berries taste very sweet and aromatic. But some say that the berries have a piney taste with some pepper or citrus elements.
Suffice to say that as they are cones and not berries botanically they taste more to that earthy pine taste than for instance the taste of strawberries.
The Smell Of Fresh Juniper Berries
The smell of juniper can be described as a lovely, piney aromatic scent. It has a pretty strong scent.
There are two main flavor chemicals in Juniper.
The first is called Pinene and is common to many conifers. The compound Pinene has a piney smell.
The second compound is called limonene, which has a citrusy smell.
These two molecules, among others, give the juniper berry bush and many other conifer trees their distinctive scent.
In the old days in Scandinavia, they believed that the juniper had magical powers. So it was common to keep juniper branches inside both for its fresh scent and to keep evil spirits away!
Juniper Berries Used As Spice
Juniper Berries are commonly used as seasoning for game and meat-dishes.
The outer shell of the berries are relatively flavorless, so the berries have to be slightly crushed before you use them as a spice.
You want that musty, sweet flavored oil to come out easily.
They are used both fresh and dried, but their flavor and scent are at their strongest immediately after harvest and decline during drying and storage.
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What Does Juniper Berry Tea Taste Like
Juniper tea made of juniper berries has that unique juniper berry taste but more described as a sweet, fresh taste and aroma of wood and forest.
If you close your eyes while focusing on the aromas you can almost imagine yourself in a pine forest.
But. with Juniper berry tea you have to be a bit careful.
The tea is so strong you should not drink more than one cup of tea a day for no more than a week, and definitely not if you are pregnant or have problems with your kidneys.
Read more about Juniper berry tea in our article Juniper Berry Tea: Potent Benefits, But Not For Everyone if you want to know more about it.
What Is The Scent Of Juniper Berry Essential Oil?
The scent of Juniper Berry oil is often described as woody, spicy, and clean.
The oil is supposed to have powers that diffused to help cleanse and purify the air.
If that’s the case, it might be where the “scent of clean” comes from. All I know is that I love that woody freshnes from it.
It’s a much stronger scent than what you get from taking juniper branches inside. And you don’t have to worry about insects etc.
When used for its aroma, Juniper Berry essential oil is believed by many to have a calming and grounding/focusing effect.
Conclusion: A Versatile Berry Indeed
Juniper berries exist in many different varieties, many are edible but there are also those that are toxic.
You should be 100 % sure before you make something of your juniper berries that it’s a safe kind you have.
The safest and most common juniper is the juniperus communis.
Juniper berries have a quite strong flavor and strong aromatic scent. If you've ever tasted gin, you know what juniper berries taste like.
And if you’ve chewed away on a pine tree, well then you also know pretty much how Juniper Berries taste like.
Before you use the berries you need to slightly crush them so that you break the outer shell of the berries which are relatively flavorless.
The flavors come from the oil you find inside.
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