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Goji Berries: Once Called Wolfberries

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Fruits, Desserts, and Other Sweet Foods

Fall Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(3) pages: 11 to 12

These small berry-like red fruits were cultivated most often in and near Qinghai, the Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures, or in and around the Qaidam Basin. Their early origins may be the largest forest in Dulan County, the second largest goji berry growing area in China said the head of the Prefecture’s Institute of Agricultural Sciences. The largest one is a forest in Wulongguo on the Kunlun Mountains and known as the ‘Valley of Five Dragons.’

This is an arid area with trees growing to but eighty inches or thereabouts b e a r i n g small fruits that do taste better than others grown el sewher e. Many wild varieties grow here, as do the wild black goji berry that health practitioners tout as having lots of medicinal value. Haixi’s dried berries have been certified organic and are ninety percent of China’s total export production cultivating several new species recently.

This area was once pelted with sand storms but goji cultivation has helped reduce these weather-related problems. They have also improved the entire industry. One local legend tells of walking sticks from goji trees used to treat many an ill patient. These fruits are Lycium barbarun and Lycium chinense, and related boxthorn fruits in the night shade family, related to the potato, tomato, eggplant, chili pepper, and tobacco plants.

TCM medical doctors say they have many anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory components that are good for the heart, boost the immune system, reduce high blood pressure, promote weight loss, slow aging, improve eyesight, fight cancers, and are good for diabetics. They also reduce skin damage from too much sun, and probably delay Alzheimer disease. Another practitioner said if taking Warfarin, a blood thinning drug, do not eat them, and do keep out of the sun because they can cause a rash, particularly if ingesting too many of them. He added for those who want to improve their athletic performance but not indicating which sport, and also improve sleep, and/or weight, then do eat lots of them. Clearly TCM practitioners have many thoughts about the value of these bright reddish-orange berries native to China. Archeologists report they have been eaten there as long as written records exist, and help people live longer.

These small fruits grow on shrubs or trees in groups of one to three fruits with stamens having long filaments. Once referred to as ‘super fruits,’ since 2004 more than one h u n d r e d twenty million dollars worth have been exported worldwide from China. When fresh they are fragile. These days, the biggest and best ones are dried in the sun, or with another heat source, then they are packaged and shipped.

Recently large tracts of goji berries have been commercially grown in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous region in China’s north-central region. Since 2000, there is a festival celebrating them in August. It is in Yinchuan, the capital of the Zhongning County. This new center of goji cultivation is now producing more than one thousand tons of them each year.

One last comment: These berries have been called ‘fruits of the matrimony vine,’ ‘boxthorn plants,’ ‘big-life berries,’ and ‘berries with the most vitamin C.’ Because of this, add them to hot main dishes near the end of their cooking, particularly those with lots of liquid, so this vitamin maintains more of its value.

Eight Treasure Congee

½ cup dried Chinese red beans
1/4 cup raw peanuts
4 cups cooked sticky rice
1/4 cup rock sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ cup walnuts or blanched almonds, slivered
1/4 cup cooked pitted Chinese red dates, quartered
1/4 to ½ cup goji berries


1. Soak the beans, peanuts, and the rice in separate covered bowls overnight; then drain them the next morning, and cook them in separate pots until each one is soft; then drain and combine them.
2. Cover the nuts with boiling water and refrigerate them covered over night. Drain in the morning and rub them in a towel to remove their paper-like skins.
3. Next, put them in a large pot with four cups of cold water, add the peanuts and sticky rice and bring to the boil. Now reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is creamy and thick, stirring it often. Then, add the sugar and salt, dates and goji berries and cook until all are soft. Serve or refrigerate until needed.

Duck Soup

½ roasted duck, bones discarded, meat torn into thin strips.
5 slices fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup rice wine
a spice bag with half stick cinnamon, three star anise, and one two-inch piece of lovage root
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/4 to ½ cup goji berries
5 ounces dried rice noodles, cooked until soft


1. Put duck, and all the other ingredients except the goji berries and the rice noodles in twelve cups of boiling water and simmer for half an hour.
2. Then remove and discard the spice bag and its contents.
3. Next add the rice, soy sauce, goji berries, and the cooked noodles and simmer for five to ten minutes. Then serve.

Goat With Goji Berries and Leaves

1 pound cooked goat loin, slivered
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 cups goji or spinach leaves, slivered
2 egg whites
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 scallions, thinly slivered on an angle
½ cup goji berries
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn oil
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with one Tablespoon cold water


1. Freeze the meat for half an hour, then sliver it thinly or cut it into thin matchstick strips.
2. Next pour half cup of boiling water over this meat and let it sit for ten minutes, then drain it, and discard the water.
3. Blanch the leaves for one minute in boiling water, then discard the water and set the leaves aside after tossing them with the ground Sichuan peppercorn powder.
4. Toss the egg whites, cornstarch, salt, scallions, cooked meat, goji leaves, goji berries, and the ground Sichuan peppercorn and its oil in half cup of boiling water. Simmer this for ten minutes, then stir in and thicken with the cornstarch mixture. Serve on a preheated platter.

Silver Cloud Ears and Pear Soup

2 large white cloud ears, soaked in two cups warm water overnight, drain and cut out and discard their hard center and the water, and sliver them
1 piece white rock sugar
3 Tablespoons goji berries, soaked for half hour in cold water, then drained and slivered
6 cups strained chicken stock
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced in quarter to half-inch cubes


1. Simmer cloud ear slivers for ten minutes, then drain.
2. Add rock sugar, goji berries, and stock and bring to the boil before adding the pear pieces. Simmer this for five minutes more, then serve in pre-heated soup tureen.

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