Growing Goji Berries, how to dry them, use Goji berries -and- access to yummy recipes.
Lycium Barbarum or Goji berry. They are also known as wolfberry and sometimes called matrimony vine. They have been grown in parts of Asia for centuries. More specificily in China and the Himalayan mountain region of Tibet. In these regions they have been used for both medicinal and spiritual purposes.
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Goji berries contain all the essential amino acids, but that’s not all. An ounce of the fruit gives you roughly 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Plus, they are loaded with a variety of antioxidants. Vitamins A and C, plus iron and zinc. They are a good boost for the immune system.
It’s rare, here in the US, to be able to go into a store (even a health food store) and find fresh Goji berries. We typically find dried or powdered goji berries that are rather expensive. But that’s ok because we can grow out own.
Growing Goji Berries:
They say they need to grow in “”at least”” zone 5. I have to squash that myth because we have grown them here in Zone 3/4 with great success. They also suggest to grow in containers if not in zone 5 or higher and then bringing them indoors during the cold months. Um.. No, I don’t think so. These things grow like crazy. get very unruly, and the stems have thorns. I guess it might not be to bad if you kept them trimmed back but why when we can grow them in the ground even in the colder climates?
Here is a picture of our Goji plant on year two.. Did I mention unruly?
Let’s Plant Some
First we have to find the plants. If you live in a zone less than 5 it would be rare, if ever, to find them available in your local greenhouse. They might be hard to find in any area. I ordered ours online. You can plant them in either spring or fall.
They like about 6 hours or more of sun and well drained soil with a pH of about 6.5 – 7.0. I never tested our soil but it must have been ok since they thrived and grew like crazy. They like it moist but not soaked. Important NOTE: Fertilizer is not needed as they do not like excess nitrogen. It will kill them.
If your in Zones 3 or 4 like we are, here are two things we did that seemed to work well to grow thriving Goji berry plants that survived well thru our harsh winters. #1.We used those black rubber grain pans around the the roots of the new plants. The kind you feed horses with. You can find them in any store that sells livestock feed or you can order them from amazon. We cut the bottom out of the pan and discarded. Then we pushed the bottomless pan down in the dirt and planted the plant in the middle. #2. Once the temps dropped below 50 degrees they begin to go into dormancy. We wrapped visqueen around the lower section of the plants. Probably about 2 feet from the ground up.
The plants, as I mentioned, grow very unruly. They also grow very tall. Unless you want them sprawling all over, which makes it harder to pick the berries, you will want to put some support next to your plant(s). Did I say tall? They can get up to 8′ tall. It’s up to you if you want to prune them or not. We kept ours at about 4 or 5 feet tall and had to keep cutting back new growth coming up. You can even grow Goji bushes as a hedge but I cannot imagine that.
When they flower the bees LOVE them and they really are a pretty little flower that is a light purple or lavender color. They start to flower around the end of July here. It doesn’t take long before they set on fruit and not long after that before they are ripe for picking. NOTE: Each year they seem to have a longer fruiting time period and around 4 years old they can produce most of the growing season. Ours fruited right into fall.
Pruning Goji Berry Plants
If you don’t prune at all you can end up with some pretty wild plants. They will grow so tall, then bend over. Kinda reminds me of a weeping willow tree. Pruning to much can reduce yield so take it easy on the pruning. Especially the first year or two. The best time is anytime between really late fall thru the winter into really early spring. However, you can gently prune during the growing season.
It helps a lot if we keep the trunk area clear for the first 15 inches. Once you identify the largest/healthy shoot or few grouped shoots, you can gradually remove the other lateral shoots. Now you have your main trunk. Once they get 2 or 3 feet tall, you can cut back any of the extended branches to encourage new, additional side branches. I only pruned for height because it made more than enough additional branches all on its own. They were pretty prolific growers.
Once they are an adult plant the pruning kind of changes. You might get some weird, long, straight stems that will not be much in the way of productivity. I cut those back. Now and then there will be other branches you might view as just needing to be gone.
Harvest and Storage
Once they start putting on fruit it will continue for some time. More branches, more fruit. They do not all come at once so that makes it really nice for harvesting. I would go out about every 10 to 15 days and pic what was there. I froze a lot of them. They freeze well as do most berries. As a matter of fact I still have some in the freezer.
For dried goji berries – you can dehydrate. It’s no different than anything else you dehydrate. Just scatter them around on your trays and follow the machines instruction book for time and temperature for fruits. NOTE: you can crack the skin of each berry for faster drying.
Let’s Eat Some
They have a very distinct flavor and have an acquired taste that’s hard to describe. I would say a cross between a cranberry and sour cherry, sort of.
I really did like to eat a few right off the plant. Not to many thou. A small handful is enough.
Add a few to your morning tea or toss a handful of fresh berries in your favorite smoothie. Not to many thou. I added them to smoothies quite often and was rather surprised that they didn’t make much of a taste or consistency difference. But the added nutritional benefit is great.
If your using dried berries then drop them in some warm water and let them rehydrate before adding them. If you have made Goji berry powder from your dried berries than a teaspoon should be more than an ample add to a smoothie.
They make a great addition to a trail mix. Add them to your store bought trail mix or into your own homemade mix. Or add some dates, throw it all in a high speed blender and make energy bars or roll into bite sized balls.
If you go to the resource library you will find trail mix and granola bar recipes with goji berries. If your not a subscriber to Only Today yet.. Please do so you have access to all the goodies in the FREE Library.
And just like raisins, toss some on your oatmeal or add to cold cereal as well.
If your a baker be sure to add some to your muffins and sweet breads.
I read that they add goji berries to soup in China and have for thousands of years. Humm. I have never tried it but here is a recipe for Ginseng Chicken Soup that sounds pretty good. Let me know if you give it a try.
Sad to say we did not have Goji berries this year. Due to a big garden re-arrange and the fact that the Goji’s were creeping into hubby’s lawn, we pulled them all up and I did not order new plants. Maybe next year.
So….. Ya gonna try to grow some?
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