Goji Berries

Goji berriesFor about six years now my family has been eating dried Goji berries as a regular part of our diet after reading the many claims about them being beneficial to health. Pronounced "go-gee", they're supposed to contain, weight for weight, more:

A daily serving is about 12-15 grams - less than will fit in the palm of your hand. They are an easy way to take one of your 'five servings' of fruit and vegetables.

About three years ago we stopped using them for three weeks and quickly went back to using them. Apart from the fact that we like their taste here's what we found compared with the claim made for them:

Claim: It improves sexual libido (OK I thought you might want this first!)
I find: Yes - it's true! Gentlemen - feed your wife goji berries. But be warned you'll need to eat them yourself to keep up with her.

Claim: It improves circulation
I find: Also true and remarkably effective. My wife had always suffered from cold hands and feet - but not when she ate goji berries. When we stopped for three weeks her 'icicle fingers' returned. If you prefer goji juice, which works just as well; you need about 30ml per day (2 tablespoons).

Claim: It is beneficial for prostate problems.
I find: If you have an enlarged prostate, something which comes with age for most men then your 'flow' will be much better if you eat a handful of the dried berries per day. If your problem is prostate cancer - not sure about this one, however after blood tests showed a higher than normal PSA count I underwent a prostate examination (Goji berries can make you more sexually active and that increases PSA levels. Your doctor should warn you about this before a PSA test - but mine didn't.) and the verdict was - no sign of prostate cancer and why did my doctor ask for the test?

Goji berries do contain vitamin K and this is believed to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer.

Claim: They reduce cholesterol levels.
I find: Another one I can't confirm but - in those blood tests my cholesterol level was found to be lower than normal.

Claim: They reduce joint problems.
I find: True. My wife had problems with her wrists, she has apparently bones which are too flexible and which bend slightly and bruise becoming painful. Since starting to eat goji berries the problem has been much reduced. I used to get periodic stiff necks. Not a trace of them since starting to take goji berries.

Claim: They improve eyesight.
I find: I think it's true. Both of us have stopped wearing glasses to read. When we stopped taking goji berries we had to use glasses again.

Claim: They improve the skin and make you look younger.
I find: Hmm. Can't be sure about this one but then we both signed the Peter Pan pledge years ago. I recently took early retirement and people keep saying 'Retire? Surely you are not old enough'.

Claim: They reduce inflammation more effectively than aspirin and prevent headaches
I find: I haven't noticed any such effect. Having said that the only headaches I've had in the last six years was during the three week period when we stopped taking them.

Claim: They promote a general feeling of well being.
I find: I feel just fine but then I always did and can't honestly say I've noticed any difference. My wife however is convinced she feels better when taking them.

Now for the bits we've found out that as far as we can tell isn't recorded about the berries.

  1. They are very easy to grow yourself, but take time to start producing fruit. Put three of the dried berries in a small pot of damp compost. Seedlings will grow within 3 weeks. Once they are 10cm tall transfer them to a bigger pot. The plants can't quite make up their mind if they are a bush or a vine. They will climb to some extent. They grow to about ten feet in 3 / 4 years. They like practically any soil, shade or sunshine. A high phosphate fertilizer will help; use it in spring. You'll need to protect them from slugs - they love the leaves. (Rabbits like them too unfortunately) The plants flower from June, producing attractive pale blue-lilac blossoms. Berries grow from the fourth year and you'll need to protect them from birds who also love them. We have ours where we grow roses and hawthorn bushes.
  2. The berries taste great eaten fresh or can be dried for storage. We have a hot air drier which works well. You are not supposed to pick the berries by hand because they are very easily damaged (like ripe blackberries).
  3. Try adding some dried berries to a bottle of water. The berries will add a touch of flavour (I add a couple of drops of cherry juice concentrate from Holland & Barrett too) and by the time you have drunk the water they will have re-hydrated and provide a tasty snack.
  4. Wholefoodsonline.co.uk who also run buygojiberriesonline.co.uk sell goji berries in various size bags and seem reliable. Check your local chinese supermarket for a cheaper source of the dried berries. Holland and Barret sell them again, Waitrose no longer seem to stock the berries. Tesco have now started stocking the berries again at a greatly reduced price. They now charge £1.50 per 100g - much better than their previous £47 per kilogram. If you live in South East England, especially Suffolk look out for them growing in roadside hedges. You can even buy goji products through Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk at a much reduced cost. Buying in bulk, about £11-18 per kilogram seems a good price.
  5. Buy plain yogurt and add dried goji berries. Leave overnight or for 2-3 hours. The berries will re-hydrate and taste delicious with the yogurt. Some people may like to liquidise or chop the berries in the yogurt before eating it.
  6. If you can't wait, add boiling water to dried berries. They will re-hydrate within 10 minutes and you can drink the liquid too, (for an even better flavour add the berries to hot black tea or coffee), however I'm not sure about how boiling water will affect the 'active' ingredients of the berries.
  7. Some cats love the dried berries. They make great treats but like humans, they can get tired of them.
  8. Dried goji berries are a great addition to oatmeal when making flapjack. It's a good idea to soak them for a while before adding them though or they can be too hard.
  9. The young leaves can be used to make a herbal tea. Dry the leaves then shred them and use as tealeaves. This is a quick way to get benefit from those goji plants you are growing.
  10. The roots of a goji berry plant can be washed, crushed and work well as an antiseptic for scratches.
  11. Make muffins, hot cross buns, mince pies and ice cream with the re-hydrated dried berries - recipes. Try rehydrating them in blueberry juice and use the liquid in the mixture too.
  12. Make a mixture of rehydrated goji berries and mincemeat and make goji berry mince pies.
  13. There are a lot of small seeds in the berries. They will pass through your digestive system without being broken down. If these annoy you you can soak 150g of dried berries in water for two days (you are best keeping this in the fridge) then liquidize the result. Liquidize it for as long as you think it needs then as long again. Straining the mixture through a wire 1mm mesh sieve will remove most of the seeds (which can be planted). Use the back of a spoon to press the berry pulp through the sieve. If you rinse the seeds left in the sieve with water and they come out golden yellow in colour, then you liquidized the berries enough. Add cherry juice concentrate (60ml Holand & Barrat), cranberry juice concentrate (Ocean spray 30ml) and lime juice (Roses 30ml) concentrates and a little blueberry juice (I use 60ml of the blueberry concentrate available from Holand & Barrat). A small amount of vodka too (30 ml - Which helps preserve it and extracts bits water won't). Make the result up to 1 litre with water. The result is a delicious drinkable form - keep it in the fridge and take about 30ml per day.
  14. Do you feed birds in winter? Put out the berries or the seeds and pulp left over from making the juice in 13. The birds will eat them and spread fertilized seeds all over your local hedgerows. (The dried berries though make a very expensive bird food.)
  15. You are unlikely to find a seller of the fresh berries. They are just too easily damaged.
  16. Like most foods, a few people are allergic to the berries. Symptoms include vomiting and/or a very itchy rash. If this happens then goji berries are not for you!
  17. If you are being treated by your doctor with warfarin it would NOT be a good idea to start taking goji berries. Like some other foods such as cranberries, the berries contain vitamin K which reduces warfarin's effect.
All in all goji berries are here to stay in my family. It's just a shame they are so expensive in the shops and as yet we haven't enough plants to supply all our needs.
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