Chinese Wolfberry

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Chinese wolfberry Lycium chinense, a small shrub of E. Asia whose small red berries have had a reputation as a medicine and tonic in China since ancient times. A Chinese name for them means ‘drive-away-old-age berries’. They have little use in the kitchens of either China or Japan (where the name is kuko). However, since they impart a sweetish taste, they have a limited use as a flavouring ingredient in some dishes, for example the oxtail soup of Sichuan.

The plant, which occurs wild in most of Asia and has become naturalized in Europe, may also be referred to as Chinese boxthorn. Its thin, bright green leaves can be used to flavour rice or consumed as a vegetable; they play a leading role in a Cantonese soup which usually also contains pork liver. They wilt quickly and need only be cooked very briefly.