Goji berries, often mistakenly called wolf berries, are easy to grow and full of nutritional benefits. They’re also a favorite plant of pollinators and look lovely in any garden.
What Are Goji Berries?
Goji berries, also known as wolf berries, or Lycium barbarum, are wonderfully healthful little buggers and great performers in your edible garden. Here are some fun facts:
- They contain both Vitamin A and C.
- They’ll happily grow in zones 4-9 and propagate themselves all over your yard, if you’ll let them.
- Goji berries are so lovely with their lilac colored blooms in spring and their bright red berries in the summer.
If you want to control their growth, prune them each year to shape. We planted two last year and we’re rolling in plants and berries.
How to Grow Goji Berries
Goji berries are tolerant of a wide variety of soils but do prefer alkaline soil that drains very well. They will grow easily in zones 5-9.
Goji berries are best grown from cuttings off the crown of the mother plant. The mother plant will make prolific cuttings and so they aren’t difficult to come by.
Use a sharp shovel to cut a baby plant away from the main root ball. The baby plants will look like a few twigs with roots coming out of the bottom. Don’t worry, they’ll green up and grow!
You can grow Goji berries in a pot for several years, which can be helpful to control its spreading nature.
You can grow Gojis from seed, but it will take several years before they come into fruit. This can be an economical way to produce lots of plants, though!
When grown in the ground in optimal conditions, Gojis can reach upward of 6 feet high and spread nearly as wide, though more common growth tops out at about 4 feet.
How Well do Gojis Grow?
Gojis are prolific growers, both for plant growth and fruit set!
I purchased mine from Raintree Nursery but there are online vendors all over the place. Goji plants are becoming more available due to their popularity as a nitrogen-fixing permaculture plant, so your local nursery may carry them come spring.
They usually come into fruit in the second or third year and the berries have a sweet/sour combination flavor, getting sweeter and bigger as they age.
The Chinese immigrants who helped build the railroad brought the dried berries with them in their pockets. As they moved toward Promontory, Utah where the Golden Spike was driven, they discarded many things, including old berries.
Low and behold, the seeds sprouted and to this day Goji berries grow really well in Utah. However, they’ll even grow in the Southern states where it’s more humid during the summer.
Are Goji berries Good For You?
Because of the presence of carotenoids, a smattering of vitamins and minerals, as well as lycopene and other antioxidants, Goji berries are good for you eyes, heart, immune system and even your good humor, not to mention your anti-aging regimen.
To learn more, go here to a whole site dedicated to the health benefits of Goji berries. To capitalize on all that year round, harvest them often throughout the season and dry them for future teas and smoothies.
And don’t forget your chickies and your goats, either–the awesome Goji berry is just as good for them as they are for you!
We even use them in our frozen bird feeder for birds in winter.
And in our winter Vitamin C tea – so sweet!
To learn more about medicinal plants, visit The Herbal Academy this month for a FREE online herbal course! From budding herbalists to herbal practitioners, there’s something for every herb student in this course. Click below for more details.
How Do Goji Berries Taste?
During the growing season you can add these fresh to smoothies, fruit salads, and cobblers. The taste isn’t exactly sweet–rather, it’s sweet at first, and then has a funny aftertaste.
Goji Berries are MUCH tastier when dried, FYI.
However, the flavors blend well with other berries and a bit of sweetener like raw honey.
The only real drawback to Goji berries is that they’re hard to pick, being small and a bit smushy. A berry rake will make harvesting soooooo much easier (in both child and adult size). These trays are technically made for lingonberries but they’re certainly more efficient than meticulously picking each, individual berry!
If you’ve never tried a Goji berry in your garden or kitchen, perhaps this is the year! If you do plant some, let me know how they do for you.