Thursday, September 30, 2010

Superfruit: Goji Berry (Wolfberry)

Wolfberry, commercially called goji berry, is the common name for the fruit of two very closely related species: Lycium barbarum (Chinese: pinyin) and L. chinense (Chinese: pinyin), two species of boxthorn in the family Solanaceae (which also includes the potato, tomato, eggplant, deadly nightshade, chili pepper, and tobacco). It is native to southeastern Europe and Asia.
It is also known as Chinese wolfberry, mede berry, barbary matrimony vine, bocksdorn, Duke of Argyll's tea tree, Murali (in India), red medlar, or matrimony vine. Unrelated to the plant's geographic origin, the names Tibetan goji and Himalayan goji are in common use in the health food market for products from this plant.
These species produce a bright orange-red, ellipsoid berry 1–2-cm deep. The number of seeds in each berry varies widely based on cultivar and fruit size, containing anywhere between 10–60 tiny yellow seeds that are compressed with a curved embryo. The berries ripen from July to October in the northern hemisphere.
"Wolfberry" is the most commonly used English name, while gouqi is the Chinese name for the berry producing plant. In Chinese, the berries themselves are called gouqizi, with zi meaning "seed" or specifically "berry". The origin of the common name "wolfberry" is unknown, perhaps resulting from confusion over the genus name, which resembles "lycos", the Greek word for wolf. In the English-speaking world, "goji berry" has been used since the early 21st century as a synonym for "wolfberry".
In Japan the plant is known as kuko and the fruits are called kuko no mi or kuko no kajitsu; in Korea the berries are known as gugija; in Vietnam the fruit is called "ky tu", "cau ky", "cau ky tu" but the plant and its leaves are known more popularly as "cu khoi"; and in Thailand the plant is called gao gee. In Tibetan the plant is called dretsherma, with dre meaning "ghost" and tsherma meaning "thorn"; and the name of the fruit is dretsherma drawu, with drawu meaning "fruit".
As a food, dried wolfberries are traditionally cooked before consumption. Dried wolfberries are often added to rice congee and almond jelly, as well as used in Chinese tonic soups, in combination with chicken or pork, vegetables, and other herbs such as wild yam, Astragalus membranaceus, Codonopsis pilosula, and licorice root. The berries are also boiled as an herbal tea, often along with chrysanthemum flowers and/or red jujubes, or with tea, particularly pu-erh tea and packaged teas are also available.
Various wines containing wolfberries (called gouqi jiu) are also produced, including some that are a blend of grape wine and wolfberries. At least one Chinese company also produces wolfberry beer, and New Belgium Brewery makes their seasonal Springboard ale with wolfberries used as flavoring. Since the early 21st century, an instant coffee product containing wolfberry extract has been produced in China. Young wolfberry shoots and leaves are also grown commercially as a leaf vegetable.
Nutrients and phytochemicals
Wolfberry contains significant percentages of a day's macronutrient needs – carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber. About 68% of the mass of dried wolfberries exists as carbohydrate, 12% as protein, and 10% each as fiber and fat, giving a total caloric value in a 100 gram serving of 370 (kilo)calories. These distinctively flavoured red berries are a very rich source of vitamin C, having 500 times more vitamin C per ounce than oranges and actually more than any other fruit. They are a superb source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and E and contain a full complement of protein with 18 amino acids and 21 trace minerals. Most of all they are an excellent antioxidant making it an ideal natural whole food for reversing aging and protecting against disease.

Wolfberries contain many nutrients and phytochemicals including

-    11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
-    18 amino acids
-    6 essential vitamins
-    8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides
-    5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, linoleic  acid and alpha-linolenin acid
-    beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
-    5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
-    numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with antioxidant properties
Select examples given below are for 100 grams of dried berries.

-    Calcium. Wolfberries contain 112 mg per 100 gram serving, providing about 8-10% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI).
-    Potassium. Wolfberries contain 1,132 mg per 100 grams dried fruit, giving about 24% of the DRI.
-    Iron. Wolfberries have 9 mg iron per 100 grams (100% DRI).
-    Zinc. 2 mg per 100 grams dried fruit (18% DRI).
-    Selenium. 100 grams of dried wolfberries contain 50 micrograms (91% DRI)
-    Riboflavin (vitamin B2). At 1.3 mg, 100 grams of dried wolfberries provide 100% of DRI.
-    Vitamin C. Vitamin C content in dried wolfberries has a wide range (from different sources) from 29 mg per 100 grams to as high as 148 mg per 100 grams (respectively, 32% and 163% DRI).
Wolfberries also contain numerous phytochemicals for which there are no established DRI values. Examples:
-    Beta-carotene: 7 mg per 100 grams dried fruit.
-    Zeaxanthin. Reported values for zeaxanthin content in dried wolfberries vary considerably, from 2.4 mg per 100 grams to 82.4 mg per 100 grams to 200 mg per 100 grams. The higher values would make wolfberry one of the richest edible plant sources known for zeaxanthin content. Up to 77% of total carotenoids present in wolfberry exist as zeaxanthin.
-    Polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are a major constituent of wolfberries, representing up to 31% of pulp weight.
Commercial products marketed outside Asia
Typical of many exotic fruits being introduced into western food and beverage commerce, wolfberry is best known as a juice marketed over the Internet since 2002, often via multi-level marketing that asserts its health benefits. There is an increasing presence in health food stores and grocery markets in many countries of wolfberry. While juice prepared entirely from fresh wolfberries is rare blends containing several other berry and fruit juices are used for nearly all "wolfberry" juice products, many of which are nevertheless labeled as "goji juice". The percentage of wolfberry contained in these juices is generally not stated on the labels of such products.
Other wolfberry consumer applications are
- Dried berries
- Berry pieces in granola bars  
- Skin soap (made from seed oils)
- Yogurt products
Commercial suppliers have processed wolfberry as
- An additive for manufacturing
- Juice concentrate
- Whole fruit purée
- Pulp powders
- Whole or ground seeds  
- Powders from juice or juice concentrate made from spray drying
- Seed oils (as with grape seed oil), and essential oils (derived from seeds)

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