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The taste of the juniper berry is one you'll never forget. It's the primary flavorant of gin, and it's very strong. So what does it taste like?
Juniper berries taste a lot like the way pine smells, fresh, woodsy and very green. You may also detect a fruity citrus flavor and a hint of spice. Overall, the flavor of the juniper berry is pungent but pleasantly so.
Are Juniper Berries Safe to Eat?
There are dozens of juniper species in North America, some of which grow in the woods and some of which might even be in the backyard.
If you're thinking about harvesting the berries, you'll want to exercise caution and do some research first. Some can make you sick while others may not be toxic but are still inedible.
That isn't to say that there are no safe juniper berries. There definitely are—you just need to know which ones aren't if you're going foraging. There are some other things to know about juniper berry safety, including that pregnant women should not consume them, so we recommend doing some research first.
Juniper Berry Texture
Because juniper berries are so strong and piney, most people don't eat them straight.
Juniper berries are pretty tough, so that's another reason you might not enjoy eating them like blueberries.
Can You Cook with Juniper Berries?
Juniper berries might be known as the key flavor in gin, but you can also cook with them. You can throw them in marinades with lemon and olive oil for grilled tofu, or you can use them in desserts like you would nuts and dried fruits.
One thing to keep in mind when cooking with juniper berries is that the best things to add them to will have robust flavors that can stand up to the hearty juniper berry.
What Can Be Used Instead of Juniper Berries?
Have you encountered a recipe that calls for juniper berries and you just don't have any? Don't worry. There's a common ingredient you can use in their place: rosemary.
Rosemary is not exactly the same in flavor, but it's similarly pungent and aromatic. Fresh rosemary would be ideal to mimic the piney flavor.
If you're out for a walk in the woods and you spot what looks like juniper, the first thing you should do is some research to find out if it might be one of safe juniper bushes or one of the toxic varieties. If you're purchased or discovered the safe kind of juniper berries, the easiest way to use them is to steep them with the tea leaves or fruits of your choice to make a lovely hot tea, or to add them to a marinade for tofu, tempeh or fake meats. The flavor is bright and festive, so keep it in mind when the holidays roll around.