Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Goji Berries

     Goji berries came well recommended.  Like ridiculously so.  It's almost tough to find a disease or medical condition that won't be helped or cured by goji, according to its adherents.  Everything from high blood pressure, diabetes, fever, eye problems, and even cancer.  My favorite story was about Li Ching-Yuen, who allegedly reached the age of 256 (1677-1933) in large part due to his daily consumption of these berries.  (If you're curious, and as I may have already mentioned on this blog, the confirmed record holder was 122, for Jeanne Calment of France (1875-1997).)  The package I bought touted the berries' alleged 5,000 year history of being used in Chinese and Tibetan medicine.  However, the bag also included the disclaimer, "These ingredients have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." So, as is often the case for these, and other Super Fruits/Super Foods (see May 1, 2014 post), my stance on their supposed health benefits is, "That's nice.  Let's see the scientifically-proven evidence."
     Not to say there aren't definite healthy aspects of goji, just that they've been exaggerated, or at least are unproven as of yet.  They do have decent to good amounts of Vitamin C, iron, zinc, selenium, antioxidants, and fiber.  On the other hand, there are health detriments to them--they evidently interfere with certain diabetes medications, and a popular anticoagulant, warfarin.  Furthermore, some of their health marketing claims have been investigated by government agencies in Canada, the U.S., and the EU, and the result has been warnings against the Chinese producers/manufacturers.  So it's a fruit which also comes with various medical, marketing, and even political controversies.
     Goji berries are also known as "wolfberries," and for the life of me, I can't understand why they didn't stick with this exciting latter name.  Hell, your advertising team could mail it in, and go with the obvious spokesanimal, either with a tough, ominous wolf, or a friendly, cool, canine.  These berries are native to the Himalayan region of Asia--China, Tibet, and Mongolia.  They're part of the nightshade family of plants, meaning they're related to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and tobacco, among others.  They're consumed in many ways.  Raw, dried, combined with rice porridge, soups, chicken and yam entrees, broiled into teas, or mixed up in yogurts, juices, and smoothies.  Even into a type of wine.  Finally, the goji plant's shoots and leaves are also edible.
     The ones I bought were called "Himalania" (with the "A's"looking like mountain peaks), which admittedly is an amusing name.  The berries were a product of China, by way of BrandStorm, Inc., out of California. They were raw and dried, so essentially like red raisins, or "gojasins," perhaps.  I had some out of the bag, plain, and then others that had been plumped by soaking them in water for a couple of hours.  I was unimpressed. They sort of tasted like off-raisins.  Not particularly good, with a too-slight tartness and a weird aftertaste.  The soaked ones were a little better, but still not that good.  I'm having trouble finishing even half of the 4 ounce package, and I don't plan to buy these again.  I'd still try these fresh if I got the chance, or see if the smoothies or drinks are any good, though, to give the berry a complete trial.  And, if medical science does find that goji berries do treat or cure diseases, then I'd change my tune, obviously, and scarf down even the lackluster dried ones by the pound.  But, I'm very skeptical of these assertions, as well as the outrageous claim that I could exist for centuries by eating enough of them, like some sort of bizarre fruit-vampire.

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