In Chinese legends, goji berry symbolizes longevity of life. These tiny orange-red color berries obtained from a nightshade family plant growing naturally in many Asian and Mediterranean regions.
Botanically, goji belongs to the Solanaceae (nightshade) family of plants. Wolfberry, matrimony vine are other names to goji. Eggplant, tomato, potato are other interesting family members in this nightshade family.
Scientific name: Lycium barbarum. Ningxia province in Northwest China is the principal region where wolfberry grown at a commercial scale. Goji berries grown in Ningxa, especially in Zhongning, are renowned worldwide for their exceptional quality.
|Goji berries. Note for oragne-red fruits. (Photo by-dsc_4967)|
Goji berry is a deciduous, thick woody vine that prefers loamy, well drained soil. The two common goji cultivars grown in China are L. barabarum, and L. chinense(Chinese wolfberry). L. barbarum or NingXia (Gou Qi) berries considered as the best and most poular in the western world.
Goji reaches about 2-3 meters in height and begins fruit yielding by second year of plantation. The plant bears small, purple color flowers in the summer which undergo self pollination to develop green, raw berries in bunch. The berries turn deep orange-red and can be ready for harvesting by August. Each berry measures about 2 to 2.5 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter, has ellipsoid shape and waxy, glossy skin. Inside, it consists of tiny, cream-white, flat seeds interspersed at its center. Traditionally, fresh berries harvested by handpicking and sundried for several days, sorted and dispatch for markets.
Every year during the harvesting time, locals in the Nigxia province celebrate goji berry festival in the month of August to commemorate the importance of gojiberry in their culture.
L. barbarum plant parts, including fruits, leaves, flowers, have long been recognized as a functional food praised in Chinese culture. The berries, in particular, are packed with an impressive list of essential nutrients, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Dry, red ripe goji berries are concentrated sources of carotenoids, calories, vitamins, and minerals.
Antioxidant carotenoids and flavonoids found abundantly in goji berries. Beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin, and lutien play vital role in protecting skin and mucus membranes from free radical injury.
Certain flavonoids found in goji berries are quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, hesperidin, and rutin. They act as anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer agents.
Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it may offer protection from "age-related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly.
Fresh as well as dried goji are an excellent sources of vitamin A. 100 g of dried berries carry astoundingly 26822 IU of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucusa. It is also an essential vitamin for good vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A may help human body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
Vitamin C is another natural anti-oxidant found in good concentration in goji. 100 grams of dried goji composes 48.4 mg or 80% of daily required levels of this vitamin.
Dried gojiberries are excellent source of calcium (190 mg or 19% of RDI), iron 6.80 mg/100 g of fruits (about 85% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Calcium is an important mineral that is an essential constituent of bone and teeth, and required by the body for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulse conduction.
Further, fresh as well as dry berries carry adequate daily recommended levels of B-complex group of vitamins. Dried goji contains very good amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), thiamin niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These vitamins are acting as cofactors help body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
Almost all parts of the goji plant has been found use in the traditional chinese medicine. Chinese physicians advocate different parts of the plant for different seasons. Its leaf in spring, flower in summer, fruits in autumn and root in winter.
The berries employed in medicines to cure inflammations, as blood thinner, healh tonic for skin and eyes, to relief nervousness, and to improve memory.
|Dried goji berries.
(Photo by-Antonio Tajuelo)
In the United States, dried goji berry available in the supermarkets and Asian stores. Buy authentic, branded berries in pack, or bins.
In the traditional cultivated farms, only ripened berries handpicked from the Goji bush. They are then spread out on stacked, drying beds for 10-16 hours under shade until their waxy skin shrinks and shrivel. They are then dried under sunlight until there is only 10% moisture left in the berries. Once dried the berries are sorted and stored in bags and transported to the warehouse for packaging.
Dried goji can store well for up to one year. In high humid environments, store them inside the refrigerator for extended lifespan.
Raw, fresh berries last for 2-3 days at cool, room temperatures, and for a couple of days inside refrigerator. Dried berries, however, can store well for several months.
Completely ripe, fresh berries can be eaten handpicked straight from the bush. Being a member of solanecece fruits, eating unripe goji could be toxic and therfore, should be avoided.
Dried berries can be consumed on their own like raisins. Soaking them in lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes makes them soft and plump.
|Jujube fruit, wolfberry, chicken soup.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh berries can be eaten out of hand as in grapes.
Dry fruits can be used in a much similar way like raisins, in cakes, tart, bread, muffins, etc.
Add them in tea with lemon.
Dried berries can be added in soup with spices and shredded chicken.
Being a member of nightshade family plants, goji berries too contain solanine, a glycol-alkaloid toxin.
Patients on anticoagulant medications like warfarin should be advised to not to consume goji berry products like goji berry juice as it may potentiate the anticoagulant effect of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. (Medical disclaimer).
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