Lycii berries, also called goji or wolfberries, are a well-respected tonic herb used as part of the centuries-old tradition of Chinese Herbal Medicine (TCM). These tasty berries can be eaten as is, made into a tea, or added to soups and stews.
The Plant: Lycii berries, goji or wolfberry, are native to China and other parts of southeast Asia. Although matrimony vine is one of its other common names, lycium is actually a spiny shrub, not a vine. The ten-foot long, arching branches are, however, reminiscent of a vine. The pale rose-colored flowers develop into red, pointed fruits or berries.
Constituents of Note: Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene, with zeaxanthin, a yellow pigment, account for up to one half of the carotenoid content of lycium berries. Also present are about 5% polysaccharides and up to 1% of betaine, an alkaloid found in milk thistle and beets.
The flavor of lycii berries is sweet and fruity, with a faintly fruity aroma. The best quality berries are plump, tender, and slightly chewy.
Suggested Uses: Goji or wolf berries can be enjoyed eaten as a dried fruit, combined with other fruits and nuts to make a trail mix, or sprinkled on cereals. They're traditionally cooked along with other foods and tonic herbs in soups and stews or baked in breads and muffins.
A vitalizing tonic tea can be made with equal parts of goji berries and schizandra berries. Simmer one tablespoon of each herb in one pint of water for 20 minutes. Strain and drink a cup of the tea in the morning and again in the evening.