In February 2009, I purchased three tiny 4″ goji berry Lycium barbarum plants from a fellow edible plant collector during bare root planting season. At the time, I was reticent to pay a premium for a small plant I knew very little about, and even worse, never tasted. I like collecting edible plants, especially ones that are exotic for Socal backyard gardens, hard to find the fruit sold as organic in stores, or would cost me more than other common fruits, per pound, to buy at the store. Blueberries, Kiwi, figs, everbearing raspberries, and now Goji fit all of those. I took a chance and bought 3 to see how they would do. A neighbor heard I had the 3 gojis and promptly asked to buy one from me at my cost. No problem. Apparently she was already a fan of the dried berries and would sometimes purchase them at a health food store. She also adds fresh goji berries to protein shakes. That left me with just two plants that resembled a couple of spindly sticks with a few scattered leaves. I planted them in two different locations, with one in a pot, to see what they really preferred exposure wise.
At the time, I had only read about Goji berries, and never located a goji plant at a nursery. From reports I read online, when goji plants are started from seed, it takes 3 to 4 years to get them to set fruit. The lady I bought mine from said she acquired her first plant years earlier from a small specialty nursery in San Diego and paid the premium price of $30 for a 1 gallon size. Ouch!
The plants I was sold were root division grown, and the woman said they should probably produce the first summer, due to that fact. Even though the gojis weren’t huge plants that first summer, she was correct. We had a light crop, with a few of the first berries pictured at the top of the post. Over time, the plants have easily multiplied, a bit like raspberry plants or mint. I keep mine in a confined location in the veggie garden where they don’t get too invasive.
When eaten raw, I would compare the flavor to a bitter sweet red bell pepper. I really dislike the flavor when they are raw. But the chickens love them. The Goji berries are the first thing my hens make a bee line for when I open the veggie garden gate and allow them in. Apparently, most people prefer to dry them and add them to other foods. I will try this with the harvest from 2012.
Goji Berries are considered a super food. They are bright red, oval, and about the size of raisin. My plants grow about 4 to 5 feet tall, depending on how much sun they are getting, shorter with more sun. They do okay in half day sun and limited irrigation. They do have a tendency to get a little mildew once in a while, but it doesn’t harm them or the fruit. The lady that sold me my original plants said this was to be expected with them.
*A word of caution from my personal gardening experience is Goji plants can be very invasive like mint or blackberries, but even more aggressive. They spread by underground runners. It would be best to keep them in a pot on concrete or confined in a deep planter area.
More info on growing conditions for Goji can be found Davesgarden web.