This is a guest post from Thomas Doane who frequently writes for Cooks and Travel Books.
Countless health advocates have praised the advantages of consuming Goji berries, a relatively new addition to American diets. Though the fruit has been used for thousands of years by people in Asia, it only recently rose to prominence on this side of the pond. Chock full of beta carotene, iron, and Vitamin C, Goji berries are widely recommended by organic food proponents and medical professionals, whose ranks include San Francisco doctors. It seems everyone is on board on the Goji berry train. Given their health benefits, it makes sense.
Goji (“happy”) berries are also known as wolfberries. They are a rich, natural source for antioxidants – such as the aforementioned beta carotene – which are food-based nutrients that can slow down or prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. Best described as unstable atoms looking to cause trouble, free radicals can cause the acceleration of diseases such as cancer. Goji berries are also linked to a decrease in the incidence of stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and heart attack. Sounds like the sort of fruit everyone should try at least once, especially on the recommendation of San Francisco doctors.
China is the world’s primary supplier of products that contain wolfberry. Called a “superfruit” – a marketing term that essentially just means a food is nutrient-rich and pleasing to the palate – Goji berries are annually celebrated in Ningxia, a region in northwest China from which most commercially-produced wolfberries hail. The festival kicks off in late summer to mark the time of year when the berries are harvested.
The berry, a fruit of the Goji tree, is a member of the nightshade family. (Other famous nightshades include tomatoes and eggplant.) The semisweet fruit looks a bit like a hybrid of a raisin and a sun-dried tomato, and has been known to improve eyesight (something my San Francisco doctors both pointed out, given my need for eyeglasses with a strong prescription), reduce mood swings, and increase libido. Goji berries can be added to any number of foods, including trail mix, cereal, and baked goods. They can also be added to water for a taste of sweetness or made into juice.
While it’s certainly easy to jump in line to try the latest trend, wolfberries are clearly here to stay. Used by herbalists throughout Asia to improve circulation, support liver function, and heighten immune system functions, Goji berries are likely to be a welcome addition to the dinner table in stews, salads, or even dessert. With such a wide variety of uses, finding a food that will be enhanced by their flavor shouldn’t be difficult.