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JUNIPER

Juniperus communis

Family : Cupressaceae

Description

Juniper, a sprawling shrub of the cypress family is distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The main producers of juniper are Hungary and Southern Europe, especially Italy. It had a reputation for being a protector and friend to those in trouble. In the Middle Ages juniper branches were hung over doors as protection against witches. Its branches were burned to keep serpents and snakes at bay.

Botany

Juniper is an evergreen coniferous tree, prostrate or upright to 6 m. The juvenile leaves of a juniper are needle-like, prickly and emitting scent of apples if bruised. Mature leaves are awl-shaped, spreading, and arranged in pairs or in whorls of three. Some species have small, scalelike leaves, often bearing an oil gland, which are pressed closely to the rounded or four-angled branchlets. It is a dioecious tree having male and female reproductive structures borne on separate plants. The male flowers are yellow and conical, the female are green and rounded. The reddish brown or bluish cones are fleshy and berrylike and often have a grayish, waxy covering. They mature in 1 to 3 seasons and contain 1 to 12 seeds, usually 3.

Cultivation

Juniper is usually planted in autumn or spring in good, well-drained soil in open areas. It is propagated from seeds or from cuttings.

Aroma and flavour

The fruit, or berry, of this species is used to flavour foods and alcoholic beverages, particularly gin, which is named after Juniperus through the French genièvre. Juniper berries have a fragrant, spicy aroma and a slightly bittersweet flavour.

Culinary, medicinal and other use

Used with venison, they remove the gamey taste. They are also used to season sauces and stuffings, in pickling meats, and to flavour liqueurs and bitters.Oil of juniper, distilled from the wood and leaves of several species, is used in perfumes and in medicines such as diuretics. Oil from unripe berries is used in massaging rheumatic or gouty parts of the body. Wood of stem and roots is burned to smoke preserved meats. Galls produced by junipers as a reaction to fungal infection are known as cedar apples.

Juniper is a powerful antiseptic and is used in insecticides and perfumes and is believed to help blood circulation and to restore youthful vigour to the ageing. It is used in the treatment of colic, flatulence and rheumatism and as an antidote for snake bites.

 

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