Goji berries come from China, where they are revered for their healthful properties: they are high in antioxidants and contain more Vitamin C than oranges and more beta-carotene than carrots, according to researchers. They are also cheerful, plants with purple flowers in early summer, followed by dazzling, dangling bright red berries. Growing your own gojis will give you the chance to eat them at their just-picked prime.
Goji berries are in the tomato family. They are not annual plants, but woody deciduous shrubs growing up to about 10 feet tall. They thrive in sunny gardens and tolerate drought, but regular watering and fertilizing will help produce an abundant crop. Goji berries can be trained onto a trellis or against a fence, which makes it easy to prune the branches to encourage more fruit. The plants will also flourish in big flower pots, where they will be shorter than plants in the ground but produce berries sooner.
In China, goji berries are grown on large plantations and are harvested by the ton. The delicate berries are picked by hand; they are very perishable. In your own garden, the berries turn from green to red over several weeks. They can be picked as they ripen — when they turn red and taste sweet, they’re ready to eat. Toss them on cereal or blend them into drinks, as you would blueberries or strawberries. Fresh or dried goji berries can be baked in muffins or cookies, like raisins or cranberries; they also freeze well.
Although commercial farmers in the United States have been working on large-scale goji berry production fields for a few years, gojis have not yet become a big commercial crop. Demand for fresh goji berries is growing, however, and where fresh berries are available, they are expensive. Growing them in your own back yard, the price is always right.