Friday, April 13, 2012

Wolfberry: the Wild Gogi Berry

Ripe Wolfberry
Gogi berries have been quite the rage for the past few years as a sort of super food.  I am sure the berries are very healthy but there really isn't any scientific support for them as a super food at this time.  At a minimum though they are just as healthy as any other berry, which other berries are indeed very healthy.  Here in the Sonoran Desert Wolfberry is quite common, especially along dry washes.  Between now and the  middle of May is when they are ripe for harvesting, and they are quite easy to find.  They look like miniature tomatoes that grow on medium to small sized bushes.  The resemblance is for good reason, both Wolfberry and tomato are in the same plant family, specifically the genus Lycium.  They sure don't taste like tomatoes though, but probably closer to a raspberry.  The amazing thing about Wolfberries is that their size varies significantly from year to year depending on timing and amount of rain received during the winter months.  Years with little rainfall will yield tiny berries that are not worth picking.  Years with more rainfall will yield nice sized berries slightly smaller than a raspberry.  This year I have noticed that Wolfberries along washes are niced sized while those outside of washes are too tiny to pick.

Anyway, its the right time of year to search out this berry along desert washes.  Be sure to bring a good plant identification key so you can be sure to correctly identify what to pick and not to pick.  The best way is to identify the plant by leaves, berries, and the flowers.  Unfortunately, the small purple flowers have been gone since February.  In future years though, consider searching out the plant by flower in February, then remembering its location come back to harvest berries in April.  My guess is that these wild gogi berries are healthier than what you can buy in the store, if for no other reason other than the fact that you have to hike around to find them.
Wolfberries small purple flowers, usually found in February.

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