Organic Goji Berries

Goji berries (Lycium barbarum), also known as wolfberries, are a highly nutritious fruit in the Solanacea family of plants which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and chilies. They (probably) originated in SE Europe or SW Asia but only in China is there significant commercial cultivation. Gojis have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for nearly 2,000 years. Their nutrient richness and antioxidant qualities contribute to their popularity in the West as a “superfood” used in a variety of products including fruit drinks, sauces, and trail mixes. The leaves and roots are also used medicinally.


The majority of commercial cultivation takes place in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China. Here is a link to an interesting website about goji berries from Ningxia. It includes a brief list of the medicinal uses for goji berries. This is a Chinese web site translated using the google translate tool. Lots of cool links in the left hand column.

Goji berries will grow and produce fruit in North America where their commercial cultivation is being tested. Local gardeners are propagating goji berries so we can see how they do in the Pacific Northwest. I hope to have a bunch of starts next summer at the Lopez Island Farmers Market so you can get one when you visit Lopez.

They grow wild in the hedgerows of the UK (a maritime climate) where the Duke of Argyll introduced them in the 1730’s. They call them the Duke of Argyll Tea Tree after the Scotsman who introduced them.

Source of Gojis

I obtain organic raw goji berries from Live Super Foods, the Raw Superfoods Superstore in Bend, Oregon. These folks have a wide array of top quality foods, supplements, personal care , and so forth. They provide good information about their products. Check out their goji berry info HERE.

Links about gogi berries, wolf berries, Lyciium barbarum, Lyciium chinense

Wolf berry? Goji berry?
The Chinese word for what we call goji berries sounds, more or less, like goji. “Wolf berry”, more common in English, may derive from Linnaeus’ botanical name for tomato which included the Latin root word for wolf (Lycos).

Cacao Nibs

Cacao originated in the Amazon River basin and is now grown in tropical regions around the world. The genus name Theobroma means “Food of the Gods” in Latin. The cacao tree produces pods containing 20-60 seeds usually called ‘beans’. Inside the pods these seeds are covered with a mucilaginous pulp that is carefully fermented to separate the seeds from the pulp. This art of fermentation reminds me of brewing beer where variations in temperature and moisture content create significant differences in the flavor of the bean.

Cacao pods growing on a cacao tree.
Cacao pods growing on a cacao tree.
Split open cacao pod showing mucilage covered seeds
Split open cacao pod showing mucilage covered seeds

I use cacao nibs to make Chicaoji. Cacao ‘nibs’  are simply cacao beans that have been cracked into little pieces. They’re usually used to make chocolate. Cacao is called a “super food” because it is very high in antioxidants. You may have heard how dark chocolate is good for you. Well, raw cacao is the “good for you” part. The milk, sugar, and other additives to chocolate (the -olate in chocolate refers to milk) only dilute the benefits. Cacao by itself tastes slightly bitter and the goji berries weave a sweet and sour complexity into the flavor. Agave nectar’s sweetness balances raw cacao’s flavor. I use raw cacao because roasting may diminish the benefits.

Where to buy cacao: Healthy Goods (aka Live Superfoods)

I recommend Live Superfoods in Bend, Oregon if you want cacao. Healthy Goods is an excellent source for all sorts of organic, raw, vegan and generally healthy foods, personal care products, supplements, books and so forth. I bought cacao from Live Superfoods when I was buying cacao in single pound quantities.

Live provides information about raw cacao you might find interesting. Briefly: they explain about the antioxidants, neurotransmitters, essential minerals, and fats in raw cacao. Also, they provide some history of and uses for raw cacao.

I’ve always liked very dark chocolate and took to cacao nibs right away when I discovered them. I enjoy eating them on all sorts of food, in trail mixes, and just out of hand. The first time I tasted cacao nibs and goji berries together was the spark that inspired Chicaoji. See the story of Chicaoji.

Chipotle Chiles


What is a Chipotle?

Chipotles are  wood smoke-dried jalapeno peppers. The wood smoke serves to preserve and enhance the flavors in ways that simply drying does not. There is a complex chemical reaction that occurs having to do with the tannins in the smoke and the oils in the chilies. Chipotles originated in Mexico. The word Chipotle comes from a  Nahuatl word for, not surprisingly, “smoked chile pepper”.  The jalepenos remain on the plant to ripen until they turn deep red. (The familiar green jalapeno in your grocery store is simply unripened fruit.)
The ripened chilies are spread out on racks in closed chambers and smoke is passed over them…. and the craftsmanship of smoking chilies begins. They smoke at about 165˚F/ 74˚C. From the smoker chipotles go out into the world to spread their intrinsic beauty, savor, and enjoyment of life. This smoking process makes chipotles the only ingredient in Chicaoji that does not satisfy the typical standards for raw food. I’m fairly certain that chipotles are gluten free and GMO free.

I seek the middle ground with Chicaoji’s spiciness.

I try for a medium heat for Chicaoji that a wide range of people can enjoy. The goji berry/cacao combination that started the whole Chicaoji thing needs just a little chile heat….. more like a kiss on the cheek than a slap. However, Chicaoji’s heat does vary from batch to batch. That is the nature of chilies. Pick two chilies off the same branch of the same plant: one may be cool as a bell pepper and the one next to it make you cry.
I really enjoy that people who “don’t like spicy food” slather Chicaoji all over their food although for some it’s still too hot….So it goes…. When I sample Chicaoji at the Lopez Island Farmers Market (using GMO-free organic corn chips) I get such a wide range of reactions but generally it seems I’ve found a middle way.

Where to get Chipotles

Mycological Natural Products in Eugene, Oregon provides Chicaoji’s chipotles. These are some of the best chipotles I have tasted. If you like to use chilies in your recipes check your their excellent selection of “Terra Dulce” certified organic chile peppers from around the world. They are mainly a source for ordering  wildcrafted and certified organic cultivated, dried and fresh, culinary and medicinal mushrooms.

I asked the Mycological staff for information regarding these chipotles. Here is what they wrote:

“We purchase those from a family farm in the Southwest.  We’ve been working with them since 2007, and they have great quality, and take much care in their growing, drying and packing of the chiles.  They have many generations of family farming under their belts!  MycoLogical also hand sorts each batch when they arrive at our facility, this ensures everyone will enjoy the absolute finest quality of chile peppers available!”

If you are looking for chipotles for your home recipes Mycologial sells them in 2 oz packs and in bulk. Check them out.

Benefits of Chipotle chilies

Besides the fact that chipotles are delicious and nutritious, there are those who say that chilies are actually good for you. However, I’m not a medical expert so I won’t make any health claims for chilies. Click HERE  for a little info from

How to make your own Chipotles

The folks have a short article about the history of the chipotle and other smoked chilies, woods used to smoke chipotles, equipment you might have on hand to make homemade chipotles, and brief descriptions of chipotle smoking techniques. They also have a bit about smoking habaneros.

New Mexico State University provides this interesting web page about chilies in general such as how to make the burning sensation stop, why are chile peppers hot, what are the hottest chile peppers, are ornamental chilies edible, and more interesting bits of info..

Organic Agave Nectar

I looked around for just the right sweetener for Chicaoji. I chose agave nectar for a couple of reasons.

  • I like its complex flavor.
  • Customers find agave nectar’s relatively low low glycemic index valuable and desirable.
  • I like that the agave is organically produced.

I purchase Chicaoji’s agave nectar from GloryBee.

  • Organic
  • Kosher
  • Gluten Free
  • GMO Free
  • Raw


GloryBee agave nectar is available at many food coops and natural food stores. Here’s a link to their store locator.

How is agave nectar made?

Interestingly, the production of agave nectar is very similar to how a bee creates honey. The bee adds enzymes to the complex sugars of nectar, which changes it into the simple sugars making honey. It is also through enzymatic action that the complex sugar found in agave juice is changed into a simple sugar sweetener- Agave Nectar.

Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed during the 1990’s. Originally, the blue agave variety was used. This is the same plant used in the manufacture of tequila. During the late 90’s, a shortage of blue agave resulted in huge increases in cost and a sweetener based on this plant became uneconomical.

Why eat agave nectar?

Agave Nectar has many fine qualities. Foremost among them are the certified purity, both organic and kosher. Also of note is the flavor. The light variety’s neutral flavor will not alter the taste of the foods in which it is used making it ideal as a sweetener for coffee, tea, fruit “smoothies”, and other beverages. The amber variety’s mild natural flavor will lend a delicious and mysterious hint of flavor to sauces or baked goods. This sweetener is also very convenient to use, as it has a long, stable shelf life and will not solidify. It pours quickly even when cold, blends and dissolves readily in or on all foods. For baking, its moisture retention properties are comparable to those of honey. Bakers also may notice a silky, smoother texture to their goods and better definition of other natural flavors.

Limiting glucose consumption is a contemporary concern for many people. The introduction of this new sweetener is timely as it has a relatively low glycemic index due to its higher proportion of fructose and lower levels of glucose. This fact should prove attractive to those with special diet considerations or who monitor glucose intake.

  • Low Glycemic Index:
    This is a relatively new concept which can be important from a metabolic standpoint, especially to diabetics, along with athletes and grossly overweight individuals. The index is an indicator as to how much your blood sugar increases in 2-3 hours after specific food consumption. Most if not all carbohydrates are normally metabolized into the simple carbohydrate glucose, which in the glycemic index concept is arbitrarily assigned a value of 100.As a result, the higher a glycemic index food number is, the faster it raises your blood sugar level. Foods or ingredients with glycemic index numbers close to or above 100 present some significant health issues to diabetics, and in general, sweeteners of all kinds should be avoided by diabetics. Nonetheless, for those diabetics who choose to consume certain amounts of carbohydrates, Agave Nectar, it should be noted has a lower glycemic index than honey. Agave Nectar was found to have a glycemic index of 32. In contrast, honey has a reported glycemic index of 58, due to its higher ratio of glucose to fructose, as compared to the ratio of glucose to fructose in Agave Nectar.Please note: these values are based on using glucose as the reference point, which is the currently accepted approach relative to reporting glycemic index. Earlier, white bread was the reference point, but white bread composition can vary widely, and thus glucose is now the preferred base product.

Click here to visit the GloryBee site for more detailed information.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Chicaoji is made with certified organic apple cider vinegar (ACV). I chose ACV for its taste and for the health benefits, known since the times of the ancient Greeks. You may already be familiar with ACV used as a daily tonic.

I obtain Chicaoji’s delicious apple cider vinegar from Spectrum Organics or Azure Standard, a natural and organic food distributor.

A little story about apple cider vinegar:

As with so much of life, the story starts with sunlight. Sunlight shines on the apple tree leaf and chlorophyll magically makes a simple sugar with the sunlight, carbon, and hydrogen and puts it in liquid: apple juice. The “Mother of Vinegar” is a complex of organisms that transform sweet apple juice into vinegar. (You can see it as thready cloud in the bottom of any bottle of raw unfiltered ACV at your store.)
Broadly divided into two categories, the Mother of Vinegar consists of yeasts and bacteria.
The yeasts come along first and break the apple sugars down into carbon dioxide and alcohol in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment we call fermentation. It is at this point known as “hard cider”, a beverage enjoyed by people world over. Hot on the heels of the yeasts are the acetobacters which are bacteria that in an aerobic (with oxygen) environment break down the alcohol into acetic acid among other things. Acetic acid is the sour part of vinegar.

It’s a really cool process that involves Tribes of organisms that are absolutely fundamental to Life. Without the fungi (yeast are part of this Tribe) land based life forms would not likely exist. Without bacteria none of us would exist.

Long Range Plan

Eventually, I hope to use a local or regional apple cider vinegar to make Chicaoji. The San Juan Islands are a wonderful fruit growing region. Before irrigation of the farmlands East of the Cascade Mountains and the development of the interstate highway system, this region produced fruit abundantly and was called the fruit basket. You can find old orchards dotting the rural landscapes all over the region. There is a movement to inventory and propagate these old trees to save the old varieties, some call it the Heritage Fruit Tree Project.

I hope your desire for Chicaoji will translate into a market demand for apple cider vinegar in this area and that this this would, in turn, translate into demand for apples, apple based products, and processing infrastructure. I hope for  that fresh/dried/frozen fruit, fresh cider, hard cider, fruit spirits, sauce, sweeteners, jams, jellies, and vinegars will provide livelihoods for generations.

Celtic Sea Salt

I use Celtic Sea Salt for Chicaoji because it is well know for its most excellent quality. Here’s the story of how I decided to use Celtic Sea Salt provided by Selina Naturally in Arden, North Carolina.

Back when I was fine tuning the recipe for Chicaoji I asked people what they thought we the most excellent sources for the ingredients. One day on the ferry to the mainland I was sitting with a group of people just hanging out and visiting during the voyage as we commonly do here in the San Juan Islands. I mentioned my little recipe idea to the group.

Now as it happens, one of the people in the group had a ‘salt guru’ in the 1970’s. I had never even  heard of a salt guru before that moment. Salt guru? Really? Wow! (Well then, it was the 70s and if you were there you know that there were some wild and crazy things going on in those days. I remember most of them.)

Anyway, she suggested that I use Celtic Sea Salt because for two reasons: it is excellent and it is known for its excellence. She said that many people pay close attention to the quality of salt they eat and that using Celtic Sea Salt for this new sauce I was creating would signal to them that I use premium ingredients.

When one asks the Universe for help and/or advice it behooves one to take it when one receives it. So Celtic Sea Salt it was and is to this day.

Since then I’ve gotten to know the folks at Selina Naturally a little bit and they are really nice people. One of my favorite quotes about salt comes from the wholesale account manager at Selina. We were discussing the difference between sea salt and table salt, which is pure sodium chloride with maybe some anti-caking agents. He said, in his North Carolina accent, (imagine with me now, these words flowing in the relaxed and uniquely emphatic Southern way of speaking): “Now Randall, sodium chloride is a CLEANING powder. It is NOT food.”

I use that quote often at the farmers markets. I love it.

That said, here are some links to the Selina Natually website and store. You can nourish your family, loved ones, and customers with excellent salt and the wide range of products they offer. If you use salt in anything check these folks out. You can also find their products in stores all across the country.
I’ll let the nice folks at Selina Naturally explain why Celtic Sea Salt is so great in their own words.

Selina Naturally

Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt