Also known as the “wolfberry” and the more romantic “matrimony vine,” goji(GOH-jee) berries are the fruit of a woody perennial grown primarily in China. They’ve been a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Recently Western health food advocates have touted their nutritional value, and goji berries have vaulted to the top of the charts on lists of so-called super-foods.
In the United States, goji berries are available dried or as juice or pulp products. Health-conscious consumers are gobbling them up: Marketers say the numbers for juice alone will top $1 billion by 2013. There’s no denying that this little berry packs a big nutritional wallop: Goji berries are rich in amino acids, antioxidants and carotenoids, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
Since antiquity, goji berries have been prescribed to protect the liver, promote eyesight, enhance fertility and sexual function, boost the immune system, improve circulation, and increase longevity. Today, they’re a prime example of the medicinal clash between East and West. Recent studies in China report that the berry’s antioxidant properties protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease and vision disorders, including glaucoma and macular degeneration. Western authorities dismiss these claims, and the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to marketers who promote disease-fighting properties without adequate scientific evaluation.
Use dried goji berries much as you would use raisins—in muffins and breads, sprinkled on your morning cereal and added to trail mix recipes. You can rehydrate the dried berries in water and use them in smoothies.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.