Goji Berry (lycium Barbarum)

Goji berry refers to the Chinese name for the bright orange–red fruit of the woody and thorny plant (shrub) Lycium babarum. In English, it is commonly known by the name wolfberry. L. barbarum is one of the 90 species of the genus Boxthorn (Lycium in latin) in the Solanaceae family (other plants in this family being tomato, potato, eggplant, chili pepper, tobacco, etc.). It is believed to have originated somewhere in the regions of southeast Europe and southwest Asia, but is now grown all over the world – China being the largest producer.

Goji berry is also known by other names like Chinese wolfberry, matrimony vine and Duke of Argyll’s tea tree; in herbal health care stores the dried form of the fruit is marketed as Tibetan or Himalayan Goji berry. The majority of the commercially produced Goji berry comes from the Ningxia and Xinjiang regions in China.

Celebrated in Asia as one of Nature’s most nutrient-rich health foods since thousands of years, the legendary health benefits that Goji berry is claimed to confer are eyesight improvement, boosting immunity, liver protection, longevity, etc. The presence of a large number of micronutrients and phytochemicals in this fruit has been corrobarated by scientific studies.

It is perhaps the presence of large amounts of phytochemicals like polysaccharides, sterols and zeaxanthin and antioxidants like beta carotene, lutein, lycopene and vitamin C, in addtion to loads of minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and selenium, that lend the legendary health-giving properties to Goji berry.

As a food, Goji berry can be eaten either raw or brewed into a tea. It tastes similar to raisins, though less sweet and more dry. Commercially, it is available as dried fruit or in the form of juice or powder. Goji berry is often used in China as an ingredient in soups, too. Its leaves and young shoots are consumed as a leafy vegetable in China. In fact, even a Chinese wine is produced from Goji berry.

Maybe you can use your own culinary imagination to savor the taste and discover the health benefits of this exotic superfruit in numerous other ways.

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