These astringent blue-black berries are native to both Europe and America. Juniper berries are too bitter to eat raw and are usually sold dried and used to flavor meats, sauces, stuffings, etc. They're generally crushed before use to release their flavor. These pungent berries are the hallmark flavoring of gin. In fact, the name is derived from the French word for juniper berrygenièvre, which is the name for gin in France.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.