Everyday Forage: Remembering and Reconnecting to Perennial Plants Series: JUNIPER
JUNIPER-Elderberry Float Recipe
I couldn't think of a better way to start off 2022 than a plant connection with Juniper. While the earth may not be bursting with lush green here in the Midwest, January still holds some precious delights and surprises!
I'm in constant awe when the land reminds me of life's abundance, typically countering (and over exceeding) my expectations. Arriving back to the States this fall, I barely got a proper mushroom harvest; scrapping by remnants of Chicken of the Woods and Maitake, as my body and spirit adjusted to being back in the States. I was a little bummed, it doesn't quite feel like a Midwest fall without pickling, drying, and frying up wild mushrooms on the daily. It was good to be back in Chicago though, which soon followed feeling good being back in Detroit, MI and then even better in Arizona for a warm(er) Christmas season. Being so nomadic this past year (I moved and lived in 21 different places in 2021...strange during these times, but true) has me yearning for more locational stability. At the same time, I recognize my longing and need to live globally, cultivating & bridging community ties locally and abroad. P.S. I'm so happy you are a part of it! So, long story short, with all the moving, I felt like I was constantly missing the "ideal" harvest time for many species. This constant shifting though, brought me to Juniper...in their abundance and remembrance of slow and steady growth (Figure 1).
Although Juniper, Juniperus communis, is incredibly common throughout the US, Europe, Asia and bits of Northern Africa, (Figure 2, Kew) and is considered of least concern (IUCN) in terms of conservation- it's a slow grower...and takes about three years for a mature plant to produce ripe "berries." I say "berries" because it is not considered a true berry. What we say is a juniper berry is actually a female cone with engorged, fleshy, merged scales which form what we call, the juniper "berry."
So, we're really consuming a coniferous female cone...hence the remnants of an aromatic Christmas tree/old growth pine forest...cool. The berry has three distinct color phases: green, light blue, deep blue, which indicate its "ripeness" and harvest time. While I typically harvest juniper berries in late fall, I also enjoy a winter harvest if and when the species is producing as much as this beauty here.
There are various accounts of historical usage of juniper throughout the world. It has been used as a diuretic, anti-arthritis, anti-diabetes, antiseptic as well as for the treatment of gastrointestinal and autoimmune disorders (2019 Verma). This is mainly due to its rich aromatic oils, resin, terpenic acids, leucoanthocyanidin, alkaloids, flavonoids, and tannins. These little blue powerhouses are filled with monoterpenes; known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties.
In order to extract these aromatic oils, resins, and other properties we are going to use an alcohol extraction, commonly known as a tincture. Gin, is essentially a medicinal tincture, however when we drink to consume alcohol for recreational purposes we are taking in a larger dose than in this tinctured juniper and elderberry syrup. Choose your adventure, however this recipe is primarily for medicinal uses enjoyed through food, not an alcoholic beverage. If you wish to add a bit more gin to your float, have at it and tweak your recipe to suit your needs. For folks who do not wish to consume alcohol, consider steeping a few juniper berries with mint and thyme for a delightful upper respiratory and soothing gastrointestinal tea.
Tinctured Juniper Recipe: GIN
Did you know that GIN is predominantly flavored by juniper berries and other spices and aromatics? You can feel free to play with the recipe to suit your needs...wanting a warmer gin? try adding cinnamon and ginger. Wanting a brighter gin with some extra vitamin C? Add in some citrus peels... don't want bitter notes? Or need some extra bitter for digestive aid? discard or keep the inner white skin of the peels...choose your adventure, and have fun with it. Below's my take on this historic drink
(P.S. if you're interested in diving in on more culturally salient recipes and history, join our monthly or annual Everyday Forage Membership Club. You'll receive a 16oz Juniper Elderberry Cordial along with access to exclusive conversations and community. This offer is only available until January 24th*).
*Not interested in making a Juniper-Elderberry Cordial yourself? You can purchase one until January 24th. *Seasonal & limited Edition
Note that in the youtube video, there was not a distinct color change in the gin. Unfortunately due to a bit of time management in relation to video editing, I didn't wait the 48 hours...
...here is an image though if the color your juniper-tincture will turn. A bright golden yellow.
Don't be alarmed, it's all the goodness inside:)
I bottled it in a reused glass made in Spain-isn't it lovely! I'll be gifting it to my sister who loves a good gin. Realistically though, it will be rebottled in a dark, airtight amber glass container to keep it fresh and away from any damaging UV lights.
If you decide to purchase this month's limited edition Everyday Forage Juniper-Elderberry Cordial it will be shipped in a 16oz airtight amber glass used for tinctures.
For more information:
Now for the fun assemblage of a Juniper-Elderberry Float! Please feel free to reference the Youtube video above, or follow along with measurements here. Lemme know how you like it! Or if you use juniper in another way. I'm on the lookout for some culturally salient recipes from Ukraine and Germany currently which I'll be posting on the Everyday Forage Membership page. I hope you'll join us!
Cheers and Enjoy!
Farjon, A. 2013. Juniperus communis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T42229A2963096.
Accessed on 13 January 2022.
Plants of the World Online (2022). [Online]. Available from: https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:30088655-2. (
Raina R, Verma PK, Peshin R, Kour H. Potential of Juniperus communis L as a nutraceutical in human and veterinary medicine. Heliyon. 2019;5(8):e02376. Published 2019 Aug 31. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02376