A new type of berry has hit the produce section of the grocery store: The goji berry.
It seems that goji berries, also called wolf berries have become a popular go-to snack due to their unusual combination of flavors. They have a sweetness to them but that is backed up by a rather tangy taste not unlike a dried cherry. They are oblong in shape and look like a tiny, wrinkled football. They come from the plant, Lycium barbarum and have been long believed to prevent chronic diseases.
But why have they suddenly become popular and where do they come from?
Originating in China, these brightly colored berries have been a part of the diet of the locals in the Himalayas for many centuries. They have only become popular in the 21st century in the Western regions of the world.
It has a long history of being regarded as a medicinal plant in Ancient Asia and they are still eaten to treat kidney issues as well as eye and liver problems.
High in Vitamin C, absolutely loaded with fiber which keeps things moving along in your bird’s digestive system, they also are a wonderful source of Vitamin A. something very important in many species of birds, especially African Greys.
Studies have also indicated that they are a wonderful source of antioxidants. One of those antioxidants is a phytochemical called zeaxanthin which is what gives the berries that vivid red color. A bright color in any fruit of vegetable is a pretty good indicator of the presence of antioxidants and goji berries have it in spades.
Those antioxidants are what protect cells from breaking down when exposed to elements in the environment that are unhealthy. Their complex carbohydrates are absorbed very slowly so there is no crash from a sugar rush.
They are also believed to be effective in helping ease joint pain and inflammation.
It’s those antioxidants working with the system again, so this might be an excellent choice to feed the more senior birds who might be suffering from arthritis and joint pain.
Naturally, due to this medicinal regard, they are being imported and eaten as yet another “Superfood” by people who are keen on amping up their intake of highly nutritious foods with antioxidant properties.
They are often used in puddings and other desserts and more and more food manufacturers are including them in foods such as granola and breakfast bars due to their chewy consistency. The food producers are even mixing them in with trail mix which give it a nice tang. They work well as a topping on your bird's breakfast and they work well in a Grain Bake
Most berries typically have antioxidant properties which ward off free radicals and goji berries are no different One study even found that they help ward off cell damage from radiation. The antioxidant properties also fight aging and are instrumental in preventing the likelihood of cancerous tumors developing.
They are typically sold dried and pre-packaged, but you can sometimes find them in the bulk section of the supermarket if your store sells food in this manner.
They look like dried, red raisins and believe it or not they are rather easily grown. They are a perennial plant that comes back year after year and they are apparently made of very sturdy stock, able to withstand both hot and cold climates.
You can stick them into the ground as their roots like to go very deep into the ground but you can also grow them in a container. The roots in the container will stop growing once they reach the bottom of the pot so be sure to expect a smaller plant if you use them in a container garden.
They are a deciduous plant meaning that they drop their leaves in the fall so if you plant them for your birds, be sure to expect that to happen.
You can get smaller plants for less of an expense and get them started indoors so that they can establish them selves. Once they have grown to a point where they can reestablish themselves in the less forgiving environment outdoors, simply pop them in the ground or in your plant containers.
Water them immediately and mulch them well with about two inches of mulch to keep the moisture level even.
Select a sunny site if you choose to plant them outside but avoid full sunlight if you live in the Southwest desert as that intense sun will scorch your goji berry plants. They might flower for you by the second year followed by the berries appearing on the branches.
Once they bear fruit, simply harvest these healthy berries and wash for your birds to enjoy!