Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A tale of two households, part 2

with 12 comments

Ashe Juniper Fruit 9930

In the previous post you saw the tiny cones of a male Ashe juniper, Juniperus ashei. Now from the same place in Great Hills on January 14th here’s a closeup of a female tree bearing lots of tiny fruits, each about a quarter of an inch (6mm) across, which sources describe as berry-like cones. I had no idea a cone can masquerade as a berry, but apparently it can. Note the seemingly ubiquitous spiderwebs in a couple of places.

DID YOU KNOW?

The alcoholic drink called gin gets its name from the juniper “berries” that season it, which come from a species found primarily in Eurasia and Canada. That makes me wonder if the fruits of the Ashe juniper, though considered inedible, could be used in small quantities to flavor a Texas gin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2014 at 5:59 AM

12 Responses

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  1. Aren’t they plump and lovely? They certainly make a nice textural contrast with the needles. And yes, they certainly could be used to flavor gin. I know a couple of folks who dry them and use them year-round in marinades for venison, or in red cabbage. And I’ve been told that the old German settlers had a practice of eating one berry each day, throughout the year, to help protect against the trees’ pollen.

    shoreacres

    February 4, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    • In return for my sneezing and runny nose, I did manage to get a close look at these very fresh and plump fruits. Your mention of the folks who use them in marinades and in red cabbage is encouraging, and that in turn makes me wonder if anyone is currently producing an edible commercial product containing juniper fruit.

      I might have to try your remedy to see if a berry a day keeps cedar fever away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      • Behold! Right there in Austin you have Treaty Oak Distillery, whose Waterloo Gin includes native juniper. I’ll bet it’s ashe juniper.

        shoreacres

        February 4, 2014 at 8:12 AM

        • Thanks for the speedy sleuthing. The Ashe juniper is far and away the most abundant species in central Texas (we also have eastern red cedar), so it’s most likely the one the Treaty Oak folks use. If it were later in the day I could call and ask.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 4, 2014 at 8:18 AM

  2. Maybe they are dinosaur eggs disguised as forbidden fruit. They seem tossed on top of the Juniper. Maybe it’s the close up that gives me the impression of eggs laid on the spot. Maybe it’s my morning sense of humor.

    lensandpensbysally

    February 4, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    • My eyes must not have been fully open when I saw your comment, because I misread Juniper as Jupiter (or maybe I was still thinking about invaders from another world). In any case, my imagination about this picture hasn’t been anywhere near as fertile as yours, which came up with purple eggs being laid on the spot. Now if you can take an iPhone photograph of the bird or reptile that did the laying, I’ll really be impressed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2014 at 8:10 AM

  3. I look forward to your post.
    They make me happy.

    sedge808

    February 4, 2014 at 9:16 PM

  4. Your photograph gives them the appearance of concord grapes.

    This is another plant product that is used in Mediterranean cooking. I have only ever tasted them in rice and a little bit goes a long way. I understand that the deer will eat these too, so they can’t be all bad.

    Lynda

    February 5, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    • They do look like grapes, don’t they? On the other hand, if you saw them in reality their quarter-inch diameter would probably convince you that they’re not grapes. Apparently it’s not just deer that eat them, either; the Wildflower Center website says that “many kinds of wildlife eat the sweetish berries.” Unlike you, I’ve never eaten any dishes seasoned with juniper berries, at least as far as I know. Let’s hope I get the chance one of these days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2014 at 2:48 PM

  5. I’m curious about the possible edible/potable qualities of this variety now, too, though what very little I’ve tasted of juniper didn’t necessarily thrill me and I’m not at all a gin fan. Maybe it’s time to re-try both the culinary and alcoholic versions again, after eons of assuming the worst—’specially if there were any truth to the Germans’ inference of the prophylactic quality of ingestion against allergies….

    kathryningrid

    February 10, 2014 at 5:36 PM


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