Juniper is a popular evergreen shrub that range in size from ground-hugging plants to trees that reach 130 feet (39 m) tall when mature. Junipers provide 4-season interest with colorful foliage that range from steel blue to shiny gold. Plus all junipers, regardless of size or foliage color, produce berries.
Juniper berries are the seed of the female plant and most of the berries are edible. Berries are typically dried and used as a spice but some are used for medicinal purposes. Some juniper berries are bitter and some are poisonous, so be sure of the variety before consuming the berries.
Are you wondering how to grow juniper? Read on.
Gather Some Juniper Berries
Juniper berries are the cones of the evergreen conifer trees. The seeds are inside of the berries and you will need these seeds so you can grow juniper berries.
In the fall/autumn of the year, look for berries that are dark blue and have a white wax-like coating on them. Pick a few berries from low-growing juniper shrubs and shake the taller-growing trees so the berries will fall to the ground.
Extract The Seeds
Soak the berries in citrus-based hand sanitizer for a few days until they no longer feel sticky. Rinse with water and spread berries out in a single layer on paper toweling to dry. When dry, rub the berries with a stiff-bristle brush to expose the seeds.
When seeds are visible, place the berries in a bowl of water until the seeds are separated from the pulp and begin to float. Floating seeds are viable; sinking seeds are not. Remove viable seeds from water and allow to dry.
The juniper seeds must undergo a stratification process that mimics nature before they will germinate. Place dried seeds in a lidded container of moist sand or peat moss and place in a location that remains room temperature for 2 months. At the end of 2 months, place container of seeds in the refrigerator for 3 months.
In spring or summer, plant the seeds 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) deep in the soil in a sunny or partially shady location. Add sphagnum peat moss to the soil at planting time to increase soil acidity. Keep soil moist at all times.
As the juniper matures it will produce berries that can be harvested at any stage of ripeness and used in culinary applications.
Juniper Berry Uses
Juniper berries are fragrant with a spicy flavor and can be used fresh or dried, crushed or whole, to add flavor to casseroles, marinades, and stuffing recipes. Their spicy flavor complements wild game dishes of duck, rabbit, venison, as well as cultivated meats like beef and pork.
Juniper berries also provide the main flavoring for gin. The berries are rich in anti-inflammatory properties and are often used in home treatments for arthritis.
*Do not take these health benefits as professional health advice. Please seek advice from a certified physician first if you have these issues.