Is Goji Berry an Asian Health Food?

The other day I was over at my girlfriend’s home for dinner and she had a new gadget in her kitchen that made fresh soy milk from soaked raw soy beans.  New gadgets get me excited and I was so fascinated with the device.  But, even more interesting was that to increase the nutrients in her soy milk she added a hand full of red looking raisins.  “What’s that?”  I asked.  “Goji Berry”.  Since I know nothing about the goji berry, here is a guest post to tell us more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     photos:  Wikimedia.org

The Goji, or Goji Berry has become a well-known health food in the last decade, but there are conflicting reports concerning its relative benefits.

In America, the Goji is known as the Wolfberry, but the main growing region in the world is in China, in particular in north central China, in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The Ningxia berries have earned a reputation as the premium Goji , and the region grows approximately 40% of the total China output.

Physically, the berry resembles a grape tomato (see picture) and is actually a member of the Solanaceae family which includes potato, tomato, eggplant, etc. The bushes can grow from between 3’ to 10’ high and bear their fruit in late summer in the northern hemisphere.

In the west, Goji is primarily bought in the dried form (looking like a dried cranberry) or in a juice (often mixed with other berries, and usually without any identifying percentages.) In Asia, the leaves and bark are also used in tea within the practice of traditional Chinese medicine.

The health benefits are hotly debated, wherein the proponents (often internet marketing companies) tout the berry as a “superfood”, with the highest vitamin C content of any food, whereas the detractors may be summarized as acknowledging there are genuine health benefits but questioning whether the Goji is better than any other berry.

Whilst the origin and current epicenter of cultivation may be “exotic” and therefore appealing as a marketing message, in fact Goji can be grown quite successfully in temperate climates. In the United States, plants may be bought at a variety of nurseries including Phoenix Tears Nursery and Raintree Nursery . As long as you have a site with full sun, a soil ph of 6.8-8.1, and you live in USDA zones 5-9 (most of the continental US) you can grow your own plants organically (no need to worry about pesticides on the fruit and have your own supply of berries.

Even if they are “only” as healthy as other berries, that is reason enough to plant a few in your garden. What are you waiting for?


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, is an interior designer, specializing in a contemporary Asian aesthetic and serves the Greater Seattle Area through her company, 3 Frogs Design. She's also a certified Feng Shui consultant from the Blue Mountain Feng Shui Institute.

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