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!