When the temperatures swing from 50 to 80 in a matter of 24 hours, when one day is cold, windy and rainy and the next is absolutely perfectly gorgeous, well it must be spring. And besides baseball, spring means it’s time for delicious, fresh, and local fruits and veggies. One of the best places to find such produce is at your local farmer’s market. We are fortunate in Philadelphia to be very close to some amazing farmland and this ensures that we have access to a wide variety of fresh and locally raised food. There are two prominent organizations in our area that do a ton of work and advocacy around local food and they also sponsor many farmers markets in and around the city – The Food Trust and Farm to City (click links for lists of markets).
Our local Food Trust sponsored market, the Fairmount Farmers Market (Thursdays from 3:00-7:00 at 22nd & Fairmount Ave), opened a few weeks ago and I was super excited to see a new vendor at our market. Queens Farm is based in West Chester, PA and they specialize in raising Oriental greens and other veggies. Bok choy, gai lan, yu choy, pea leaves, tat soi – I could live on these and we eat lots of them in our house. When I first saw the Queens Farm table, something caught my eye – they were selling stalks of Wolfberry leaves. Many of you might know Wolfberry by another name, Goji berry. I had never eaten the leaves of this plant, though we often use the berries in cooking and in Chinese herbal medicine formulas. It’s a pretty innocuous looking plant.
In Chinese herbal medicine, the leaves are said to “clear heat” from the body, and like the berries, they have a strengthening effect on the Liver, Kidneys and Lungs. In Chinese culture, the leaves are typically used in cooking, especially for making soups. They can be used like one would use spinach, including stir-fried and even raw. They have a slightly bitter, pleasant taste. Remove the leaves from the stalk to cook them. The leaves cook very quickly, especially if you are stir-frying them.
When I got them home Teresa immediately recognized them as something that she grew up eating, as her mom used them frequently in soups. Teresa proceeded to whip up a simple soup using chicken stock, tofu (just cube and drop in to cook for a little), the goji leaves, a small bit of sliced, lean pork and salt and pepper to taste. It was a quick, delicious, light and healthy meal. Below I have listed a few links to other Goji leaf recipes. If you don’t see them at your farmers market, most Oriental groceries will also carry them. Enjoy!
Recipes and More Info:
The “Chinese Soup Lady” has some great, basic info on Wolfberry Leaves.
This post has a stir-fry recipe (I would ignore the advice to remove the veins from the leaves, it’s not that bitter and that is way too much work!) and also a video about how to easily grow the Goji plants if you are so inclined.
A very typical Goji leaf soup recipe with chicken or pork, egg and some dried scallops.