With its stately upright form this native plant adorns many nature in the United Kingdom. Originally called common juniper this faithful watchman keeps an eye on the heathlands while the test of time is shown in weathered trunks and decaying branches.
The juniper name is a corruption of the Latin Juniperus composed of 'junior' = 'younger' and 'Parere' = 'appear'. This refers to the young fruits that already appear before the mature fruits have fallen.
In the Middle Ages, the tree was seen as a symbol of chastity. On one of the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of the lady Ginevera Benci, is a juniper seen in the background. The name is a reference to Ginevera juniper. The modern name Jennifer is a modern variant of Ginevera.
This spirit-rich fluid owes its name to this controversial plant. Prior to the distillation of malt wine an extract of juniper berries is added to the mixture so the gin gets its characteristic flavor. Originally it was produced as a medicine. By adding herbs to brandy medicinal properties were attributed to the drink. The gin was taking popular, probably more for alcohol than for its medicinal properties ...
The juniper is not actually a berry. It is the dried, ripe cone that grows from the flower of the juniper. It takes three years before the berries are ripened and discolored.
The juniper is one of the few conifer species that occur naturally in the United Kingdom. Not surprising therefore that the berries are used as seasoning for hams. Still, the juniper has a permanent place in the British kitchen.
Also in other European countries the juniper is popular. In Germany, Italy and France the spice is often found into marinades of venison. The Dutch use it into hash and pickled cabbage. And in Scandinavia juniper is used to the preparation of gravlax and in a marinate with pickled herring. The juniper has a spicy, woody, refreshing and slightly bitter taste. As the spice is heated for longer, hidden soft, sweet flavors come free. Therefore, the 'whole' berry lend themselves well to marinades, ragout and stews.
The combination with game is classic. Namely juniper neutralizes the strong flavor of wild. You can also pound a few juniper berries in a mortar. This gives you the pleasant sweetness quite sure. Ideal as a base for a broth or soup.
Also creating a delicious beet or cabbage salad is possible. Combine them for example with mushrooms in a cream. Juniper also go well with parsley and bay leaf. And they have a great effect on aromatic dishes with apple, cabbage, sauerkraut, celery, carrot, chicken, lamb and fish.
Not only in food but also in many drugstore products juniper is used. In bath oil or skin cream and also as a medicine. It is mainly used for sore muscles and joints and disinfection of the urinary tract. Juniper berries are very healthy. They are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and have beneficial effects on metabolism.
Use in the garden
The common juniper propagates by seed. However, there are many cultivars that are multiplied by cuttings. Juniperus communis Hibernica and Suecica, respectively Irish and Swedish juniper are the best known of these. Beautiful plants to bring vertical accents in the garden. Furthermore, there are dwarf forms (Juniperus com. Compressa or Gold Cone) which are very beautiful in a rock garden. There are even groundcovers; for example Juniperus communis Green Carpet and Repanda where especially the first mentioned remains very low. These types could very well substitute a lawn and grass mowing then belongs to the past!
The juniper is ideal for bonsai. The plant is hardy and tolerates pruning well. The tribes are good to form and the weathered nature of the bark gives the plant an authentic look. So Juniperus is popular with bonsai specialists and many juniper has already won an award. Not only bonsai but also other types of ground cover plants are popular. Tied by a stick is the Juniperus com. Green Carpet a whimsical pyramid. Also grafted onto a stam creates a beautiful form.