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Picking juniper berries.

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Sharp needle-leaves and ripe berries that fall off at the drop of a pin...

... you'll need a technique to pick juniper berries in quantity.

Junipers (Juniperus communis) have a three-year cycle: flowers, first year. Green berries, second year. Ripe blue berries, third year. You can have any combination of flowers, green and blue berries on any given bush in any year.

Me, I put on leather gloves and use one or the other narrow-mouthed berry picker, when I go for juniper berries. The leather gloves because those needle-leaves are sharp. The berry picker because it works a treat - here's a few pics. The wide-mouthed model with a handle is extremely good on the short non-branching ground cover berries of northern Finland, but they won't work at all on the lush ground cover berries of southern Finland. I haven't tried the wide-mouth model on juniper at all - I expect it won't work, what with all the branches.

A berry picker will catch a lot of large, rather pretty but very smelly bugs, in addition to both green and blue berries.

I try to go for bushes with as many blue and as few green berries as possible. Green berries go bad during drying and have to be discarded.

You can easily get a liter or two of berries within an hour in a nice stand of juniper. When you get home with your take of
berries and smelly bugs, pour the lot onto a large sheet and give the bugs an hour or so to move off. They will.

Another way of picking a lot of berries in a hurry is to put a large sheet underneath a bush with lots of ripe berries and shake the branches. They'll fall off, just like that. Collect your ripe blue berries and move on to the next bush.

Or you could just try picking them by hand. You'll need leather gloves, it's lots of work, and it's frustrating as well, because the ripe berries fall off so easily.

Drying juniper berries

You have to let juniper berries dry for about 3 times as long as other herbs: they contain lots of resins, which slows down the drying process.
After the berries are completely dry (about 3 weeks in room temperature, or a few days in a dehydrator): discard all brown berries, and discard all berries with entrance holes - they have bugs.

Related entries: Using juniper berries - Juniper salmon - Juniper berry toxicity.