Growing Goji Berries in the GardenSeptember 29, 2010
Earlier this year, I got a birthday surprise from my mom — a Goji Berry plant. It arrived in early March in a box marked “live plants: open immediately”. Now that’s my kind of shipment! Let’s start growing goji berries in the garden!
The plant went immediately into the greenhouse where it passed the remaining cool weeks of early spring. Once it began showing signs of aphids, I moved it out in the garden, in a large container. These plants are reported to get quite large, and I just wasn’t sure where it belonged, so into a pot it went. The aphids disappeared shortly after I changed the plant’s environment, and the plant continued to plug along doing little to impress me until August when I found it blooming near a water feature and ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia, which both attract the hummingbirds and the honeybees. I hoped these sparse, adorable flowers might catch a pollinator.
Today, as I headed into the house after a day working with design and coaching clients, a glimpse of red caught my eye. At first, I thought it was the ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia actually showing painted lips. I love this plant, but often the red tips on otherwise white flowers go unpainted much of the year. The white flowers are lovely, but nothing compared to those with a dash of lipstick to liven up the shrub. But, as I approached the cluster of containers, I realized what I saw was a Goji Berry, and a ripe one at that!
Sure enough, a pollinator got to those sweet flowers, and the fruit that spent much of September green is now turning yellow then orange then red. There aren’t many, which isn’t terribly discouraging. My passionfruit experiment of 2009 didn’t yield many fruit last year, but this year its output has at least doubled. So, I hope the Goji Berry will do the same in years ahead. In all likelihood, I’ll find a spot in the garden where it will live permanently. Supposedly, they’re hardy to zone 5, which means here in my zone 7-ish, I should be good-to go.
Did I taste the fruit? Of course I did!
Botanically known as Lycium – a nightshade family cousin to the tomato -the fresh Goji berry is tender, mildly sweet, and slightly juicy. Its internal structure is more like a paste tomato than a slicer – aka less juicy, seedy stuff. They’re high in antioxidants and various nutrients. And, they dry well – into chewy, sweet-tart, currant-textured morsels.
This year I’ll probably get about 20 fruits, which isn’t enough to dry or make jam from, but once I have an eight-foot shrub in the garden, all bets are off. If I do land a bumper crop, maybe I’ll be able to convince Master Preserver and good friend Theresa Loe of Growing a Greener World and Garden Fresh Living to join me for a jam session with these cool new foods in my garden!
Have cool uses for Goji berries or experience growing them in your garden? Please share!
And, anyone want to suggest next year’s wierdo addition to my garden? Please chime in. I’m always on the lookout!
And, hey Mom, thanks for the health food. You were the one who got me started down this crazy foods road years ago, and I appreciate your on-going contributions to my garden and my plate.