How to plant your own goji berries (Lycium barbarum). Germinating and sowing your own Goji Berry plants.
Goji Berries: A traditional Asian “medicine”?
Being Malaysian Chinese, I’ve eaten goji berries since I was a baby. Chinese ladies use the dried red berries in soups and other tasty dishes. I love it (it tastes like a raisin with lots of little seeds like a blueberry has). I also love the flavour it imparts to some of my favorite Chinese dishes. Never really thought of it as a medicine though, much less a ‘sexual tonic revered in Asian herbalism‘! Goji berries have become the latest health food craze here in the US and apparently can cure a plethora of maladies.
Goji berries in my edible garden
This plant packs a punch healthwise and also aesthetically. Impressive white and purple trumpet-like flowers from early summer, eye-catching fire-engine-red clusters of delicious berries on a lush green bush (max height 8 ft). The plants will fruit continuously till the first heavy frost. And the plants are hardy to -15 deg F. Good for my PA Zone garden. I figure a row of goji berry bushes all the way down my garden will be the perfect backdrop for some other shorter edibles that I plan to grow. Birds will love the berries as much as I do, so I may have to put netting on the bushes as the berries ripen.
Planting my own Goji Berries
I had a ready supply of goji berries for cooking purposes that I could germinate. These cost about $3 per pound and are called boxthorn fruit, bought from the Asian food store in town. Spencer also had bought organic goji berries for about $15 from the Whole Foods, so I decided to use the organic ones instead. You can also order them from Amazon ($2.50 for a packet of about 50 berries will yield a gazillion teeny seeds) if you don’t have any handy for your germination experiment. Make sure you don’t get the ‘freeze dried’ ones, your best bet are the organic dried ones (usually haven’t been irradiated or treated, and will germinate).
I started off selecting three of the largest berries and opening them up to reveal the tiny seeds within. I didn’t give them any ‘winter chill treatment’.
Then I extricated the seeds and dabbed each seed onto a moistened paper towel. I spaced the seeds far enough apart that I could cut the towel into individual seedling-contained pieces later (so as not to damage their roots).
After a week, the seeds had germinated.
I transplanted them into little plastic starter pots with drainage holes. Filled the pots with compost to give ’em a good start. Make sure the soil is pressed lightly yet firmly around the seedling roots to ensure root contact with the soil (and thus water). Water daily and place in sunny spot until bigger.