Goji berries, the much-hyped "superfruit" native to China, touted for their medicinal properties and surprisingly delicious too, are now available for the first time as fresh fruit at local farmers markets.
The berries, which sometimes still have their green stalks attached, are small, about the size of an average blueberry, but are elliptical or conical, often pointed at the end. They have smooth, thin, flaming red-orange skin, about the color of a ripe Hachiya persimmon; their texture ranges from firm to flabby, depending on ripeness; and their flavor varies from slightly vegetal and tomatoey, in a few underripe specimens, to rich and sweet, evoking persimmon, rose and raisin, with a spicy aftertaste. They're actually more interesting than one would think based on the dried fruits and juice of goji imported from China, which have become popular in recent years for their high antioxidant and phenolic content.
The gojis available here now are grown by Chuck Garrigus, 47, a raisin farmer in Selma whose name may be familiar because his late grandfather, Charles B. Garrigus, was the poet laureate of California from 1966 to 2000. Chuck Garrigus became interested in goji about eight years ago when his daughter, then 8 years old, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and a teacher suggested that a "fruitaceutical" beverage containing goji would be good for her. Garrigus researched goji just to fend him off, but while doing so he became convinced himself of the fruit's healthful properties and began planting 4 acres of the bushy trees from seed imported from China.
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