Juniper berries are among the few spices that come from colder parts of the world and are not berries at all. They are actually conifers, like pine cones. They are very tightly clenched, which makes them look like berries.
Juniper berries have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, even though they do not grow in Egypt. Historians believe that they may have been imported from Greece as there are records of the Greeks at the time using them in medicine and as a spice. Ancient Greeks believed that the berries increased the stamina of athletes and used them during Olympic events. The Ancient Romans also used the berries. For the Romans, it served as an alternative to black pepper from India or was combined with black pepper to dilute it. According to Pliny the Elder, juniper berries took on the pungency of black pepper when mixed with it.