The juniper berry is the small dried fruit of an evergreen shrub (juniperus communis), a member of the cyprus family. Unusually for a spice, it is native to Northern Europe and still grows wild there. Its fruit, which are actually small cones, vary in colour and shape depending on whether they are male or female. Only the female berries are used in cooking, ripened from their blue-green colour over a period of 2-3 years until they become purple-blue. They darken to blue-black as they are dried.
Juniper berries are often crushed before use, to release their pungent, slightly sour flavour. They are one of the main flavourings in gin. In cooking, juniper is mostly used in Scandinavian and German dishes like sauerkraut. It also goes particularly well with pork.