Goji Berries: Buy Them; Grow Them; Eat Them

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What is the big deal about goji berries? There’s a new superfood hyped by Dr. Oz every month. Which ones are gimmicks and which ones offer scientifically proven benefits? That little red berry in your trail mix is the real deal.

Identifying the Goji Berry

This little red Chinese fruit, also called a wolfberry, isn’t a new discovery to billions of Asians. It’s only relatively new to North Americans. In herbal medicine, its nutrients are coveted for treating and preventing heart problems, balancing blood sugar, and treating infection.

Nutrient-rich Super Food

A super food: one that contains concentrated nutritional value, but also many types of nutrients at once. Goji berries contain antioxidants that fight free radicals. Those are the cancer-causing cells present in every human body but triggered by genetic and environmental catalysts.

People who eat these berries or consume the juice often experience more regular bowel movements and a healthier GI tract as a result; thus, symptoms of IBS and other gastric issues are reduced. Consumers lose weight as a result as well. They tend to suffer less anxiety, so there are mood-related components and few potential side effects.

Buying Goji Berries in North America

They’re not hard to find these days. In fact, any self-respecting health food store and most bulk departments in major supermarkets carry them either on their own or as part of trail mix products. They tend to be given names like “super food mix” or “health blend” to indicate these are no ordinary berries, not like raisins or sweetened dried papaya. These mixtures are typically more expensive than regular trail mix too. Watch for them in granola or energy bars.

Many cereals, especially types of granola and muesli, contain dried goji berries. Smoothie powders are frequently blended with some of this Chinese berry and there are supplements either solely derived from or containing properties of goji berries with other nutrients.

Grow Your Own

Since a bag of dried goji berries from the bulk market is likely to cost twice what a bag of the most expensive raisins costs, this is motivation enough to try and grow them at home. Is it possible to raise such an exotic plant in North America? With the right conditions, you can grow anything anywhere.

Goji berries like well-drained soil and lots of sun. They can be grown indoors or outside, but should be kept in pots. Once you plant seeds, be patient: you could be waiting a few years before benefiting from your hard work, but a way to skip this process is by purchasing an established plant from your specialist nursery.

Plants will survive outdoors if you aren’t in a part of the country where winters become very cold so the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) is probably fine. States like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are excellent locations for growing these sun-hungry plants.

They don’t need a ton of room or specific co-planting consideration as long as neighboring plants don’t choke them out or cover them up. If you have a green thumb, use the same methods you apply to growing other fruits from seed regarding soil type, fertilizer, when to plant outside, etc. Since you’re trying to grow an antioxidant-rich food, don’t nullify your investment by using chemicals to protect and nurture the plant.

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