You may already be familiar with Goji Berries or Wolfberry, if you keep up with the latest in the world of nutritional supplements. Goji Berries have been receiving a lot of press recently for the reported health benefits and high levels of antioxidants that have been linked to this exotic fruit from China.  They are considered one of the “SuperFruits” for their nutrient density. The fruit, leaves, roots, bark and seeds have been used by the Chinese for at least six centuries. This makes it somewhat surprising that there is very little information on the culture of wolfberries. However, there is tons of propaganda out there on the merits of various drinks, supplements, and other health food related products.  I will leave it to the reader to research these potential health benefits and determine their validity.  I have read you should not take if pregnant or if you have a cold or flu, unknown as to which part of the plant this refers to since the leaves are also widely used for tea.

Their amazing nutritional analysis has been well documented, it’s just that not many long term studies have been done to determine if these known beneficial nutrients will play a role in curing or reducing disease.  There are many anecdotal stories from China and other countries swearing by the benefits of this Super Food.   Personally I like the flavor which to me resembles watermelon with a bit of citrus and I think that a wide range of  fruits in the diet is always a plus.  The usual way of getting these is dried from a health food store in a small package.  In this form they resemble red raisins, maybe a little larger and taste similar.  I enjoy them but if you are like me you certainly can’t afford the premium price they bring.  So why not grow your own?!

The Goji Berry plant starts out life growing like a vine but then turns into a shrub form.  This is similar to honeysuckle or ivy. Commercially in China they are grown and tied to a stake to about 6 foot height and then left cascade down like a waterfall.  The spacing is usually 4-6’ apart in the row. I can tell you that they love the heat and often really don’t start to put on the growth until July and August.  Even though they love heat they are able to withstand extreme cold in the winter.  Ours went through this last winter (down to -35f) and had no loss of branches or growth of any kind.  This plant is very drought tolerant once it is established and also loves a high ph in the 7.5-8.2  range, truly a rarity.  All of these factors make it a top 5 fruit plant for New Mexico!

The flowers are a white or light purple , very pretty and small only about ¾” across.  They start blooming in June and keep going through October. The berries when ripe are about one half to three quarters of an inch long, tear drop shaped and about one half inch wide or about the size of a jumbo peanut. They are red or red orange, very juicy and soft.  Some articles recommend laying down a sheet and shaking the plant to harvest.  All of the pictures I have seen show hand picking as the harvest method and that is what we do.  The fresh fruit doesn’t store long which is ok since it produces a continual crop.  Just pick what you need, toss on top of your breakfast cereal and enjoy! Of course they can be frozen for later use in smoothies or juice or many items that you would use berries for.  Also chocolate covered seems popular.   They can be air or sun dried and saved this way.

The Goji is a very easy plant to grow, requires no soil preparation or alteration, shows no disease problems or insect problems and loves full sun here.  The berries are reported to contain 13 percent protein and are loaded with antioxidants. They also contain more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges, and more beta-carotene than carrots. What more could you ask for?   I think every homestead needs a couple of these to help round out your diet and provide some variety.  We have 2nd year plants about 12″ tall in 1 gal containers ready to go.

Below is a listing from Wikipedia for the nutrient analysis

Micronutrients and phytochemicals

Wolfberries contain many nutrients and phytochemicals including

  • 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
  • 18 amino acids
  • 6 essential vitamins
  • 8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides
  • 5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid
  • beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
  • 5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (below), lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
  • numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with antioxidant properties

Select examples given below are for 100 grams of dried berries.

  • Calcium. Wolfberries contain 112 mg per 100 gram serving, providing about 8-10% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI).
  • Potassium. Wolfberries contain 1,132 mg per 100 grams dried fruit, giving about 24% of the DRI.
  • Iron. Wolfberries have 9 mg iron per 100 grams (100% DRI).
  • Zinc. 2 mg per 100 grams dried fruit (18% DRI).
  • Selenium. 100 grams of dried wolfberries contain 50 micrograms (91% DRI)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2). At 1.3 mg, 100 grams of dried wolfberries provide 100% of DRI.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C content in dried wolfberries has a wide range from 29 mg per 100 grams to as high as 148 mg per 100 grams (respectively, 32% and 163% DRI).

Wolfberries also contain numerous phytochemicals for which there are no established DRI values. Examples:

  • Beta-carotene: 7 mg per 100 grams dried fruit.
  • Zeaxanthin. Reported values for zeaxanthin content in dried wolfberries vary considerably, from 2.4 mg per 100 grams to 82.4 mg per 100 grams to 200 mg per 100 grams      The higher values would make wolfberry one of the richest edible plant sources known for zeaxanthin content. Up to 77% of total carotenoids present in wolfberry exist as  zeaxanthin
  • Polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are a major constituent of wolfberries, representing up to 31% of pulp weight.