The myth is that goji is hard to grow – well Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) have several names in the realms of ornamental gardening; Chinese Boxthorn, The matrimony Vine and Chinese Wolfberry. So if it is a landscape plant it can’t be that hard to grow at all – in fact as an ornamental shrub it has been growing in European gardens since the 1600’s – it has even naturalised in some places so this ‘exotic’ may just thrive in your garden or allotment.
The attractive red berries are known as a super food and have a long history in Chinese ethnobotany to treat the kidney, lung and liver and to brighten the eyes. So long before it hit the glossy women’s magazines as way to banish cellulite or men’s health magazines as the best boost to your immune system and sexual stamina (it helps elevate hormone levels), its validation as a super edible was endorsed by a 5000yr old tradition.
As a food, it can be used similar to raisins – in sweet and savoury dishes or on the go snack – with more vitamin C than oranges and more iron than steak. Great if you are an anaemic GIYer – as iron absorption require the presence of vitamin C.
Western herbalist have embraced goji berries and their extracts to improves immune system responses and as a health enhancer. The berries have phytoconstituents called betaine which can reduce both blood sugar and blood lipid levels but which has been studied for its capacity to inhibit fat deposition in liver cells and which exhibits a prompting mechanisms for the regeneration of liver cells.
Research is undergoing in China to evaluate its potential in the suppression of cervical cancer Hela cells. A big part the competency of the plant as a health agent lies in the fact that antioxidant and detoxing Polysaccharides make up a large percentage of the fruit pulp.
Growing tip. Goji plants belong to the Solanaceae family, so are cousins of potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines – but they are perennial producers and not dependent on crop rotation for successive yields. They are fully hardy – even to extremes of climate -15C – +40C (5F – 104F). Although slow to establish, a regular fruiting yield occurs generally 3-4 years after initial planting. Once established they are relatively trouble free – watch for birds and aphids as you would with any other fruiting crop.
The advice is often a space of 2m (6ft) apart – only because they can easily mature to a height and spread of 3m (10ft) x 4m (13ft). They can be pruned and wall trained or even maintained as a fruiting hedge. They are self-fertile with fruiting buds forming on the previous year’s growth.
They crop better in full sun. They are costal tolerant and will accommodate wind and periods of drought quite well. In terms of pre planting ground prep – they like it free-draining and will do better if the soil is enriched with garden compost or well-rotted manure.