Goji berries are the fruit of a wild shrub that grows in Tibet, Lycium barbarum, which belongs to the Solanaceae family. In traditional Chinese medicine these fruits are highly esteemed, so much so that they are often termed “Red Diamonds” because of their nutritive value. But Goji berries are not solely eaten in Asia. From the opening years of the 21st century, in fact, there has been a rapid worldwide spread of this food, whose potential health benefits – particularly in relation to its antioxidant properties – make it a real anti-aging elixir.
These red berries grow wild in the valleys of the Himalayas, Mongolia, Tibet, and in the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Ningxia.
In particular, in this latter area, the growth of berries is elevated since Ningxia is made up of a 27% expanse and alluvial basins, which is crossed by the Huang He River. So, with the passage of time, sediment has given rise to an extraordinarily fertile soil, and the area is often referred to as “China's Herbal Pantry.”
WHY IT SHOULD BE EATEN
For us in the West, goji berries are nearly new, but they have been cultivated and used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine because of their healing properties. They are a natural remedy for keeping the body healthy and are nicknamed the “fruit of longevity” for their antioxidant effect.
Today, studies have demonstrated their efficacy, but in fact the people of Mongolia and China who use them on a daily basis are among the longest-lived of the land, and are less prone to cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
Goji berries contain vitamins of the C and E groups, which protect against free radicals and oxidative stress. They are truly jam packed with these vitamins, one need only consider that eating about 20 grams per day is sufficient.
Goji berries are suitable for sweet dishes, but you can also try them as a flavoring for your desserts. They are sold dried, and should be plumped in warm water before they are added to sweet or savory recipes.
They are perfect as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. They are also ideal for breakfast with milk or yogurt.
In granola, instead, they may simply be mixed with raisins and nuts.
A legend, handed down from century to century, relates that the discovery of Goji berries can be traced back to the 8th century A.D., during the Tang Dynasty.
Specifically, in a Tibetan Buddhist temple, there was a well surrounded by the Lycium barbarum plant, where the red berries would often fall into the water. That same water, however, wasn't just consumed by the monks, but also by local residents who always drank it on their visits to the temple.
The years went by as well, but the water drinkers, magically, never aged, so much so that those who were eighty and up had not even one white hair on their heads.
It was at that moment that some realized that their enviable health had to be linked precisely to goji berries!
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