If you live in or around the Pacific/Inland Northwest, then you’re probably already familiar with the Oregon grape that that grows prolifically in the more forest-y parts of this region. Mahonia repens is the more common creeping, ground cover and Mahonia aquifolium is a taller shrub.
Mahonia spp. is easily identified by their distinctive shiny, barbed, evergreen leaves that resemble Christmas holly. Early in the season, you can spot it by its bright yellow flowers and in mid-to-late summer, by the clusters of dark blue (and extremely tart) berries. Come winter, Oregon grape branches make wonderful decorative pieces thanks to their strong resemblance to holly. And as the season progresses, the glossy green leaves will transform into a gorgeous shade of red ?
Herbalists prize Mahonia spp. particularly for its berberine content, which has been shown to have antibacterial properties that are helpful in the treatment of throat, intestinal and urinary tract infections. The alkaloid berberine is concentrated primarily in the roots, but if you’ve ever peeled away the bark of an Oregon grape or scratched off the surface of a twig, you’ll see the bright yellow berberine.
Keep reading to learn how to create a versatile and tasty herbal syrup starring Oregon grape berries!
Once you’ve mastered the syrup, you’ll be in great shape to mix up a tasty Oregon grape-basil mojito that’ll get your weekend off on the right foot ??
Oregon Grape Syrup:
- 2 c berries
- 1 c sugar
- 1/4 c of water
- 1/8 c dried rose petals
- 1/2 T lavender
- Place berries and water in a medium pot, and bring to a boil
- Remove from burner and mash the berries, straining the liquid through a sieve
- Place liquid back in the pot, then add sugar
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until it is the consistency you want (5-10 minutes)
- Remove from heat, and add your rose petals and lavender; cover
- Allow to cool completely
- Strain the flowers out, pour into clean bottle and label
Oregon Grape-Basil Mojito:
- 1/2 medium lime, quartered
- 6-7 basil leaves (plus more for garnish)
- 1.7 oz rum
- 1 c crushed ice
- 1/4 c sparkling water
- Oregon grape syrup
- Combine lime segments and Oregon grape syrup in a container and muddle the lime
- Add basil and gently muddle again 4-5 times to infuse flavor
- Pour in rum and gently stir/fold with a spoon to combine
- Add crushed ice, gently stir, and top with a splash of sparkling water; add more ice if needed
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