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Goji Berries: Information and How to Dry This Versatile Superfood

Gathering goji berries

Fresh, ripe goji berries
Fresh, ripe goji berries
My Grandma gathers from the lower branches
My Grandma gathers from the lower branches
My Grandpa gathers from the top branches
My Grandpa gathers from the top branches

Easy Growing

Ever since I was three years old, I always looked forward to the summer. Not only was there no school, but I loved to spend the afternoons with my grandparents. My grandma always had little sewing projects for me or she taught me how to knit. But my favourite part of the afternoon was going out to their backyard and picking goji berries from their bush. This goji berry bush is over thirty years old and has been transplanted from three different backyards. My dad and his siblings spent their summers outside, gathering goji berries, and now it was my turn.

I was given homemade sleeves to ensure that the thorns wouldn’t scratch me and an old fishing hat to protect me from the harsh afternoon sun. My grandpa always took the top branches. My grandma and I took the lower branches, gathering the ripe, juicy berries. She had my grandpa make two wooden stools for us to sit on, saving our legs from awful cramps.

My grandparents always pointed out the half eaten berries left behind by the birds. In fact, the seeds always fell with the birds’ waste, growing new branches all over the garden. Goji berry bushes grow very easily, even without much care. Sometimes, my grandpa accidentally mowed over a newly growing branch in the middle of the lawn.

Once we gathered what we needed, my grandma washed the goji berries and set them out in cardboard trays to dry for the next few weeks. Once they dried, she stored them in glass jars in a cool, dark corner of her basement. Since we live in southern Alberta, the growing season for goji berries is fairly short, mid-May to mid-September. But somehow, we always gather more than enough to last the rest of the year. In fact, my Grandparents have so many jars of goji berries, they give them away to friends, neighbours, and family. Sometimes, they give away branches of their goji berry bush along with the dried berries.

Fast forward fifteen years, I'm sitting in a lecture about superfoods and the professor begins talking about goji berries. It was then that I realized why my grandma told me to eat plenty of dishes with goji berries and how it was backed up by nutritional sciences.

So Many Uses and Benefits

My mom adds goji berries to almost every soup she makes. My aunt who, has type 1 diabetes, always requests a jar when she comes to visit, as she brews them into her tea and adds them to her oatmeal. Goji berries contain taurine, a conditional amino acid (can be made by the body) known for not only strengthening muscles, but also lowering blood sugar. (It is best to consult your physician about consuming goji berries, as they can sometimes interfere with some types of medication.)

My grandma made many soups and teas for us, always emphasizing how good they were for us. To this day, she tells me to have plenty of goji berries for my eye sight, my skin, and overall health. And why wouldn’t she? Goji berries are full of vitamin A and vitamin C, both are antioxidants, along with plenty of protein and many minerals. Because of this, goji berries also help improve the immune system and help fight against cancer.

Drying Goji Berries at Home

Goji berries can be bought from community health food stores, but generally they are priced more economically in the local Asian market.

However, if you decide to grow a bush in your backyard, drying goji berries will extend the shelf life. After drying, they taste almost like cranberries.

Drying goji berries is very easy. The time it takes may vary depending on the climate of where you live (generally 2-3 weeks). All you need are cardboard trays/small cardboard boxes or cookie sheets lined with paper towel. They keep for up to a year.

Instructions

  1. Wash the berries and strain the water.
  2. Spread the berries out evenly across the surface of your cardboard tray or cookie sheet.
  3. Leave in a dark area. Run your fingers through the berries every so often so that they don't clump up.
  4. You know the berries are done drying once they're dark and hard.
  5. Store dried berries in a jar. They're good for up to a year.

Drying Goji Berries

Step one: Wash berries and strain water.
Step one: Wash berries and strain water.
Step two: Spread out the goji berries evenly across the surface of your cardboard tray or cookie sheet.
Step two: Spread out the goji berries evenly across the surface of your cardboard tray or cookie sheet.
Step three: Leave in a dark area. Run your fingers through the berries every so often to prevent clumps from forming.
Step three: Leave in a dark area. Run your fingers through the berries every so often to prevent clumps from forming.
Step four: Goji berries have finished drying once hardened and the colour is darker.
Step four: Goji berries have finished drying once hardened and the colour is darker.
Step five: Keep dried berries in a glass jar. Good for up to a year.
Step five: Keep dried berries in a glass jar. Good for up to a year.

© 2016 Shortcake-Niki

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