Goji Berries also called wolfberries grow in shrubs.
These plants are cultivated in Asia – China, Mongolia, Himalayan regions of Tibet and Nepal and south-western Europe.
The two popular varieties of goji berries consumed around the world are Tibetan and Himalayan Goji Berries.
However, most of the fruits are not really grown in these regions. These tiny fruits (1-2cm) in size are a bright red-orange color. The shrubs take around 3 years to mature and yield fruit.
Fruits start to ripen in July and are ready for harvest from then till October. They are very delicate fruits and can be easily damaged and must be carefully picked.
Goji berry growers usually wear gloves and gently shake the vines until the fruits fall on to strategically placed paper. They are then gathered in baskets and taken to be dried. Usually dried goji berries are exported around the world.
Goji berries are rich in carotenoids like zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. They also contain Vitamin C, E, B1, B2, B6, polysaccharides, linoleic acid, iron, germanium, selenium, 21 trace minerals and 19 amino acids.
Goji berries have a number 1 rating on the ORAC food rating scale that rates antioxidant levels in foods.
In Chinese medicine, both the root bark and leaves are used to make goji tea. Goji tea is said to treat fungus and bacteria that invade the body. The Chinese use this fruit extensively at mealtimes. Goji berries are full of antioxidants and said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Goji berries are used to treat common cold, fever, high blood pressure and age-related eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration. It is said to boost immune system function, prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses.
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How are Goji Berries Used?
These ‘happy’ berries, so called because of their ability to promote feelings of good health and therefore happiness, can be enjoyed in many ways. Fresh fruits are rarely available outside their growing areas. So, raw fruit is actually dried goji berries which resemble raisins.
- Raw: a handful of raw dried goji berries a day are sufficient to enjoy their numerous health benefits.
- Juice: this is a popular way of enjoying this fruit. There are many types available in the market that can be drunk plain or mixed with other juices.
- Tea: The Chinese enjoy their goji tea and so can we. A few goji berries steeped for a few minutes in cold or hot water or added to herb tea preparations is delicious. When the fruits are soaked, they become juicy. You can drink the tea and then eat the berries.
- Smoothies: Soak a few berries in water for about 10 minutes and add them to your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Trail Mix: Goji berries add a zing to trail mix recipes that also include nuts and other dried fruits. For kids, add peanut butter or chocolate chips along with goji berries to the trail mix.
- Cereals: All cereals taste good with dried fruits. So, just add a handful of goji berries like raisins to your morning cereal and get a healthy boost of energy.
- Muffins and scones: These can also be made using dried goji berries like raisins.
- Goji energy bars: This is a popular way to enjoy this fruit since it is said to have energy boosting properties.
- Soups: The Chinese have included goji berries in their soups, so try this and enjoy a refreshing new flavor.
Goji berries are usually available at Chinese food stores, health food stores and online. Usually dried berries and goji juice are the most common way to get them. These fruits are versatile as we have seen the number of ways they can be used.
Few Delicious Ways to Incorporate Goji Berries In Our Diet
Of the above ways to use goji berries, most of them use the dried variety. There are many recipes to use them and also ways to make goji juice.
Goji Juice: If you enjoy berry juices, then blend a variety of them with fruits – goji berries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples, cherries and peaches.
Blend them with water or a cup of orange juice, pour in a glass and enjoy a refreshing drink that is full of all the required nutrients. For a change, sprinkle chopped pine nuts or cocoa powder on top.
Goji Trail Mix: Combine sunflower seeds, goji berries, flax seeds, pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, blueberries, peaches, pineapple, apples and coconut shreds and whip up your favorite trail mix.
Goji Bars: These are excellent to take along to work or school or have after a hard workout. Mix goji berries along with blueberries, cherries, pecan, sunflower and flax seeds, almond butter, coconut butter, cocoa powder, honey and molasses.
Mix these to the desired consistency and shape into bars or balls. Cover with wax paper and keep for an hour in the refrigerator. Soon, delicious goji bars are ready to enjoy.
You can even add almonds, walnuts and a few dates to goji berries. Blend these with water, roll out into bars and freeze.
Look for more such recipes online. If you think of goji berries as you would raisins, you can include them in all recipes that use raisins.
Some interactions of goji berries with blood thinner medications like warfarin have been reported. Hence, avoid them if using these drugs or other blood pressure and diabetic medications.
Those with pollen allergies must avoid goji berries. Taken in moderation these fruits are safe. Even so, consult your doctor especially if you are on certain medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
While there are various claims about its benefits, there is little research to support these. Like any herbal supplements, the USFDA will not back the claims made by marketers. G
oji berries do contain a wide range of nutrients and including them in our diet will be beneficial since there are very few side effects.