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Encountering Goji Berries in Beijing

On August 29, 2011, in Antioxidants, Goji berry products, Goji Galore, by Goji

Thank you to guest writer, Julia Bassiri, who is a senior at New York University’s Gallatin School for Individualized study pursuing her literary and creative writing interests in the entrepreneurial domain. She is an avid writer & traveler with two blogs, Encounter Beijing and Encounter Berlin, to capture her experiences abroad. Follow Julia on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about her exotic experiences!

After having worked for Goji Gourmet’s Chief Epicurean Officer, Allison Jagtiani, this past year, I’ve found myself hyper aware of the goji berry’s (newfound-ish) market presence. As GG’s official “demo girl,” I provided goji berry cookie samples to the ever-intrigued, experimental Whole Foods shoppers of NYC. Before I’d finished setting up my demo station, I’d invariably have a line of eager samplers already inquiring about (and often snatching at) the four cookie varieties set out: Goji Ginger Walnut, Goji Almond Oat, Goji Cherry Cacao and, of course, classic Goji Chocolate Chip.

Would you like to sample a Goji berry cookie? I’d ask.

Though responses were somewhat unpredictable at first, I soon learned how to tailor my approach to the sampler standing before me. I’d once-over their expression, attempt eye contact, choose a goji fact that I thought might appeal and extend a friendly tonged cookie in their direction.

It’s a good for you cookie—your tummy will thank you.

I usually got chuckles at the “good for you bit ” and smiles at the “tummy” talk, but I almost always got an MMMM out of them once they’d sampled.

While I would’ve loved to carry on sampling the goji goodies this summer, an opportunity to study overseas pulled me toward a different goji center: China. Allison, supportive, smart cookie that she is, wished me well on my way and suggested I do a little goji market investigation while away. Why not see if the little red guys’ historical health benefits are still hip enough for today’s modernizing China? Well, like I said before, I’ve developed a bit of a hypersensitivity to the mega berries, somehow sniffing ‘em out and detecting them wherever I go. But oddly enough, while in China—the goji homeland—my detector only sounded a few times. While the West has been and continues to be on a bit of an antioxidant binge, it appears its Eastern counterpart maintains modest intake of these all-mighty berries and the like.

I first spotted a couple exuberant little goji berries atop a traditional Chinese squash dish. Clearly serving an ornamental purpose, just two berries elegantly contrasted with their yellow cushion. The selfish eater that I am, I went for both of them and enjoyed their very particular subtle tartness. I don’t know that I’d ever concentrated my taste buds’ attention so closely on the plain berry, but I think the intimacy of the moment heightened my goji relationship. That squash dish though, was the only dish that I encountered with goji. Everyone I talked to about goji always spoke of their pungent soup personalities, but my soups only ever featured chicken feet. Regardless, I did run into the berries in a couple of other instances: at grocery and specialty stores. Admittedly, I failed to do a proper price comparison, but the berries must have been cheaper in China, as all food is. However, I do remember thinking that the goji berries were still markedly more expensive than the majority of dried fruit goods. So, is Western demand affecting commercial prices, or have they always been pricier for other, perhaps agriculturally related reasons? I suppose a lower demand for the berry in China could be driving up its price on the mainland…

Though my goji analysis might seem a bit lackadaisical thus far, my six-week (semi-haphazard, but well-intentioned) study of the goji berry’s place in its native market has led to one insight that I believe explains its quieter status: In China, functional foods aren’t so big—I actually don’t know that they’ve hit their market at all yet—nor are health food stores. There’s food that you eat when you’re fine and then there’s food to return you to health when you’re ill. I suppose the goji berry’s status then, as a wellness wonder of sorts, is simply less frequently thought of for the daily diet; goji doesn’t quite fit in the rather unhealthy, oil-drenched, fresh vegetable-lacking Chinese diet, and it’s not exactly of the herbal-medicinal variety either. You know, it’s actually ironically (and sadly) out of place.

Fortunately for us though, goji growth’s a-plenty and the berry seems to have found a happy place in our modern market. And so, it’s with celebratory congratulations that I say cheers to the Western world’s welcoming of the Great goji. We’ve given it another home where it’s accepted, appreciated and will likely continue to thrive for years to come. To goji!

Follow Julia’s adventures on Encounter Beijing and Encounter Berlin, to live vicariously through her experiences abroad. Follow Julia on Twitter and Facebook for real time updates!

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Celebrate National Almond Day!

On February 16, 2011, in Superfoods, by Goji

Who would have thought – a national day to celebrate the almond! Well, February 16th, in the midst of February being National Heart Healthy month, is National Almond Day. Let’s celebrate! Almonds are one of our favorite nuts to snack on, especially mid-day when we need a boost of energy! Goji Buzz’s favorite variety is the organic roasted and unsalted almond…yumm! Almonds make a perfect snack, especially when coupled with goji berries (okay, we may be biased ;) They make a nice crunch to compliment the sweetness of the goji berry.

Whether you are eating almonds raw, roasted, salted, green with sea salt (traditional to Iran), cooked in a curry or badam halva (traditional in India), in an almond macaroon (traditional in Italy), as a wedding sweet (traditional in Greece), with hot milk (traditional in China), as almond paste or fried (traditional in Morocco), or ground into an almond milk, they are such a treat for the healthy of your body. Goji Gourmet even makes a delicious Goji Almond Oat cookie that you can buy at your neighborhood store.

According to the Almond Board of California, a one-ounce handful of almonds a day may be good for your heart and help maintain a healthy cholesterol level. A serving, which is about 23 almonds, contains only 1 gram of saturated fat but 13 grams of heart-friendly unsaturated fat. Other heart healthy nutrients found in the nuts are fiber, potassium, calcium, and iron. Almonds are also a satisfying snack because they contain protein. The Almond Board of California is offering convenient single-serving tins to hold almonds at their website www.almondsarein.com. Source: Calorie Lab

7 FUN FACTS ABOUT ALMONDS:

  1. Have you ever seen an almond in it’s natural green state from the tree?
    Goji Almond Oat cookies contain almonds

    Source: Wikipedia

     

  2. The word “almond” comes from Old French almande or alemande, Late Latin amandola, derived through a form amingdolouhha from the Greek αμυγδαλη (cf amygdala), an almond. The al- in English, for the a- used in other languages may be due a confusion with the Arabic article al, the word having first dropped the a- as in the Italian form mandorla; the British pronunciation ah-mond and the modern Catalan ametlla and modern French amande show a form of the word closer to the original.
  3. Global production of almonds is around 1.7 million tonnes, with a low of 1 million tonnes in 1995 and a peak of 1.85 million tonnes in 2002 according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures; world production of almonds was 1.76 million tonnes in 2006.
  4. Historians generally agree that almonds and dates, both mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, were among the earliest cultivated foods.
  5. According to superstition: If you eat almonds before taking a drink, you will reduce your chances of getting drunk and avoid having a hangover.
  6. In classical times, the Romans distributed sugared almonds as gifts to great men at public and private events.
  7. It takes 1000 pounds of almonds to make 1 pint of almond oil.

HAPPY NATIONAL ALMOND DAY! Enjoy!