Are wild juniper berries edible?



Of the roughly 40 species of juniper, a small number are poisonous and a majority have bitter fruits. Only a few yield edible berries (actually modified cones) and only one is routinely used for flavoring. The flavoring juniper, best known for its contribution to gin, is common juniper, Juniperus communis.

Can you use wild juniper berries?

Yes, juniper berries are edible. In fact, you may have tasted them before without even knowing it if you drink alcoholic beverages. Juniper berries are what gives a gin martini its unique flavoring.

Are juniper berries poisonous to humans?

The berries produced by Juniperus sabina and Juniperus oxycedrus are toxic. Only consume berries from juniper plants that you can positively identify. The entire juniper plant contains Savin oil which is harmful to the kidneys even in small doses. Prolonged ingestion can cause severe kidney damage.

Which juniper berries are used for gin?





The juniper used most widely in gin production is Juniper communis, a small tree or shrub that can live for up to two hundred years. Juniper is typically sold either whole or as crushed or cut berries.

How do you identify a wild juniper?

A helpful way to perfect juniper tree identification is by looking at its cones. Juniper cones on male trees are small and either yellow or tan. The female plants produce colorful berries, which are actually modified cones. Northwest species berries turn blue at maturity, but some species have red berries.

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How do you harvest wild juniper berries?

Juniper leaves are sharp, so it’s best to use gloves when picking juniper berries. The time-honored way to pick is much like mulberry picking. Place a sheet underneath the shrub, grasp a branch with berries, and gently shake. The berries will fall off quite easily.

Which species of juniper is toxic?

Savin Juniper is known to be toxic and potentially deadly poisonous if taken in large enough quantities. It can be difficult to accurately distinguish between different species of cultivated junipers because they have been bred to have unique features not present in their wild forms.



What happens if you eat a juniper berry?



All juniper berries contain the powerful oil Thujone. This oil can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and kidney problems when ingested in large quantities. Certain varieties of juniper berry contain safe, low amounts of Thujone, while other varieties contain high levels and can make you very sick.