Not that many years ago, Goji Berries were pretty much only available in Chinese markets or specialty food shops but they are now quite widely available in more mainstream stores, particularly in view of alleged health benefits which have caused some to tout them as being an antioxidant ‘superfood’. I was first introduced to them by a friend of mine who used to carry a bag to snack on while travelling and, while they are good this way, much like raisins or the like, they do also have some culinary uses… [READ MORE]
One sometimes hears of the berries being referred to as ‘Wolfberries’, but it appears that the Chinese name 枸杞, or ‘gou qi’, has become more common. Indeed, the berries are quite commonly used in Chinese cuisine, particularly for certain supposed medicinal properties, and I gather that much of those commercially available are grown and packaged in the Ningxia Autonomous region of north-central China.
Here you can see the berries a little more closely. If kept too long, they can get quite hard but, when freshly purchased, they should be still fairly soft, rather like dried currants. The taste is quite a bit like raisins… they have that same sweetness reminiscent of dark brown sugar, but they are a bit more lively in their fruitiness and have a few citric highlights as well.
As to the health benefits, I tend to take the medical claims about most popular fad foods with a grain of salt and, indeed, it seems that there is, as yet, little actual scientific evidence supporting the supposed medicinal qualities of this particular berry. I have read, however, that the fruit (which is related to Deadly Nightshade) contains Atropine and may cause drug interactions with Warfarin (a blood thinner) and some Diabetes and Hypertension medications. That being said, however, I take a number of different drugs for both the latter two conditions and I have experienced nothing out of the ordinary thus far. I take it, then, that the berries are safe enough if consumed in the moderately small amounts common in my household.
The berries can be ‘plumped’ up for various uses by briefly soaking them in a little hot water as shown above. This isn’t typically necessary when just snacking on them (unless they are very dried out, perhaps) but you may wish to take this step for certain uses.
Generally, the berries can be used in much the same sort of preparations where one might otherwise use raisins or other dried berries. They can be added to trail mix, for instance, or else stirred into oatmeal as it cooks. You could also include them in baked goods and, in such cases, you may want to soak them first.
In our house, we most commonly use Goji berries in tea blends. If you do this, it is generally advisable to put the berries in a tea-ball or bag as they have a tendency to clog the tea-pot spout once they get ‘plumped’ up. My wife adds the berries to all sorts of teas but a nice blend for a single pot would be:
- 2 bags Chamomile tea;
- 1 bag Mint tea;
- 3 – 4 slices of Ginger;
- 1 tbsp. (or more) Goji Berries.
In Chinese cuisine, one most commonly sees them employed in soups, particularly with other medicinal ingredients such as angelica, or ginseng. They are also included in more substantial ‘one-pot’ simmered dishes, again with other medicinal herbs in some cases, and they appear to complement chicken rather nicely. In a future post, I will be doing an adaptation of a Chinese recipe I have for ‘drunken chicken’ that is usually served cold. Stay tuned…