Juniper berries harvested from wild Eastern Red Cedars. Don't let the "Cedar" part of it's name fool you, these are actually a species from the Juniperus genus- (Juniperus virginiana), and are credited with being more flavorful than the Common Juniper. The "berries" (technically a modified cone) have a number of uses. Their flavor profile is complex with a base flavor of pine and accompanying notes of fruit, sweetness, and medicinal bitterness. They can be used to make- teas rich in Vitamin C and Antioxidants, marinades and rubs for red meat and fish, simple syrups for cocktails, pickling, and curing spices. They make wonderful additions to slaw, sausages, and desserts as well. And, for any soap-makers out there, juniper berries can be added to cold process soap as an exfoliant.
Eastern Red Cedar is a widespread species here in the Midwest. It is native but far out of it's usually range because of lack of regular woodland and prairie fires. Because of this they can be found competing with native prairie and forest plants. Removing the "berries" by foraging reduces the amount of seeds that would otherwise germinate and out-compete these more favored natives. For this reason I recommend any berries or leftover plant material to be thrown away rather than composted to avoid germinating the seeds.
It is advised not to consume excessive amounts of Juniper Berries in a short time as they can cause adverse health effects. Rinse before use.
NatureCraft Farm provides a taste of what the Midwestern-wild has to offer. Whether it is from the wooded slopes, fertile river bottoms, or the restored prairies there is a number of delicious species to choose from. Sustainability and land stewardship are at the front of my mind and always influence my foraging decisions. Increasing natives while managing invasive species is my primary mission. Help me help the land by removing invasive species and introducing them to your kitchen!
My foraging story started twelve years ago when I received a Peterson field guide on wild edible plants of the central and eastern US. As a young boy I was fascinated by all the plants and their illustrations. Dandelions gained a magical quality once I learned they could be made into coffee, tea, and even wine. Shepard's purse was no longer a random weed- but instead a snack that could be found along the garden's edge. My love for nature has only grown, and since then I have branched into eating several more species, especially those in the fungal kingdom, and continue to learn about nature's bounty.
Along with wild foods I will occasionally have heirloom produce to sell. Flour corn, eggplant, peppers, and other odds and ends can be expected.
-So join me in appreciating the wild and cultivated foods of the Midwest!