Go for Gojis: growing super berries

What is a better bargain, super berries at $26 a pound, or $2.56 plus shipping for unlimited, perpetual super berries? I’m not good at math, but I will opt for the second.

Even worse than my math skills are my gardening skills. My thumb is only the palest shade of green around the edges…I am working on it. But there is one place where my love of food, my obsession with nutrition, and my adoration of bargain shopping collide: in the garden.  Alas, I have thrown in my spade and started shoveling more than just a good story now and then. (Which reminds me, have you read Charity’s “other” blog: Spade & Spatula? Green thumb and gorgeous? Oh yeah, and published. It’s almost too much! xo)

I really love my gojis, wanna shake my tree…

My proudest venture of late is not my forlorn looking cucumbers and straggly tomato vines. Not even my overblown broccoli and lone but voluptuous watermelon. No, those are too ordinary for accolade. My crowning achievement this year is much more exotic. It hails from the fertile crags and valleys of the Himalayas. The not-at-all-humble goji berry.

Goji Greatness

If you haven’t encountered them personally, you have surely heard of the super berries. They reside in a myriad of health drinks, supplements, elixirs, remedies, weight loss concoctions, and even shampoos. They are touted as the world’s most nutritious food. David Wolfe, my raw food crush, rates them as the #1 superfood on the planet (a close second–the sensuously nutritive cacao bean–is also a very, very good friend of mine. mmmm)

My “raw food guru crush,” David Wolfe. To be fair, I would crush on anybody holding Goji and raw cacao nibs. Hmmm…must be the food I am crushing on.

Besides being a complete protein source (exceptional to note in a plant!) and rich in a spectrum of vitamins and minerals, gojis are said to promote longevity, reduce free-radical damage, have adaptogenic (stress-relieving) properties, and–according to Wolfe–they improve vision, enhance immune system, increase libido, keep organs vital and offer brain, neurological, and cardiovascular support.  Which on that list would you not appreciate?

Such power in such a small package!  You may start to see why they are so celebrated by the Whole Foods crowd.  Paying the big bucks to buy them by the pound might almost be justifiable, unless there is a better way.

Beauty and Brains…a total package!

Grow Your Own Gojis!

Meet my better way….grow them yourself! Growing goji berries is not as hard as you might think.  There are so many benefits to having a super fruit in your own garden!  Goji berries are:

  • Easy to grow (I haven’t killed them yet!)
  • Drought tolerant
  • Prolific (hundreds of berries from each vine-like branch and they branch out more and more each year!)
  • Novel (do your neighbors have them next to their marigolds and petunias? I bet not!)
  • Attractive (those little purple flowers dare you not to smile)
  • Possibly Lucrative…If you won’t pay to tour my garden, maybe you will purchase a bar of goji goat milk soap! (Yeah, that is a forthcoming Purple Barn creation, I will put you on the waiting list right after me.)

I have tried three methods now–seed, seedlings, and root stock–and I have managed some level of success with all three!

From seed to super!

Seeds:

Slow and steady. To grow by seed you can order them on Amazon. Or come snag a berry from me. Each berry has about ten seeds in there. One or two are certain to germinate!

Sprout indoors somewhere warm. After about 10 days, you will see enough root that you can move it to a greenhouse or outside if it is warm enough.  This method is slow. It takes 2 years to get berries from a seed.  But it is worth the wait and the ultimate in frugal feed!

Seedling:

A nice middle ground.  You can order 1 year seedlings from all kinds of catalogs now. I ordered a few the fall we moved in from the Burgess catalog.  They were scrawny when they arrived, but pulled through and are now resilient and full of character. Hmmm…much like my kids.  I will admit, I didn’t think these little seedlings would live through the winter. So…I forgot about them and went about other projects. (Green thumbs up!) Imagine my surprise when I commenced weeding out a weed encumbered bed on the side of the house and found a thriving berry patch! If they can live with little watering, zero attention, and completely covered in morning glory, then gojis can certainly make it in your spot of garden!

Keep an eye out. I found goji seedlings in my local garden center for the first time this summer!  You may want to hurry and get ahead of this fad so you can say you had them first!

Root stock:

my favorite; more expensive, but designed for the impatient. This spring I splurged on 3 year root stock from this place: “Buy Goji Berries.” I love them. They are friendly, answer questions, and I love love love patronizing the little guys. Did that sound patronizing? Burgess wouldn’t give me the time of day when I called and asked for info on growing gojis, but these guys will answer, encourage, and even use the profits for a good cause (animal rescue)!  The root stock I planted this spring are teeming with bright red cylindrical berry goodness.

I planted these in 5 gallon buckets, in premium garden soil amended with compost (thank you bunnies) and left them in full sun. I water regularly and have been rewarded. But keep in mind, the neglected berries of last year are doing nearly as well. (and that through this year’s drought! I wish my lawn was so forgiving!)  I am still trying to figure exactly where I want my goji patch planted permanently, but for now they make an excellent accent on my patio.

Full Disclosure:

I have to be honest, this is, after all the Internet. Mother Nature apparently packed these babies with so many healing properties that a side effect was inescapable: taste.  The immediate sweetness is surprising as it explodes on your tongue, however just as you are tempted to dance on your tip toes, the after taste hits and the afterglow immediately dissipates.  They taste like MEDICINE. Not kidding. Having eaten several now, I have to mentally urge myself to “say Ahhhh” before I can eat them straight off the vine.

So are they worth it? Well you won’t find me fighting my kids to the death over the last one on the vine (that scene has occurred in my raspberry patch on several occasions. We used to have ten children and are now down to four).  But the health benefits are off the chart and the tinny taste disappears in smoothies, salad dressings, or other sauces. They can be used fresh or dried.  I made a strawberry smoothie for my flu-laden sister one morning and she reported a “buzz” of such magnitude, she arose from her tomb and cleaned house.  They really do pack a punch!  And if you just can’t get past the flavor….dip them in chocolate. Oh yeah.

I am proud of my little powerhouse berries.  I like to think Tibet and I now have more in common than just our abounding flow of wisdom.  Salt Lake City Goji Grower, that is me!

If you need more detailed Goji growing information, check out Sask Goji Power Nursery…lots of info on how to grow, where to plant, etc. You can order seeds or seedlings from them, though I haven’t tried them myself.  Good luck!

Buying Goji Berries

If you decide to buy them in bulk rather than grow your own, I recommend shopping asian markets. I have purchased them for as low as $6.99 a pound dried, by far the best price I’ve encountered for whole goji berries.  Otherwise, they are available in most health food stores and showing up more and more in supermarkets.

If you like shopping in your jammies, check out the Amazon suggestions below!

 

2 comments on “Go for Gojis: growing super berries

  1. You’ve sold me on them! Can’t wait to grow some gojis to add to my daily green smoothies! I’ll be expecting my magical powers to show up shortly thereafter….

  2. Annette Chambers on said:

    My daughter Catherine bought 2 Gogi berry vines last spring. We grew them too close to the thriving cherry tomatoes and we lost sight of them. But sure as shootin, after the tomatoes got pulled up, they were there, with a few berries too. Next year we won’t plant anything too close to them.

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