Black goji is a a different species than the more famous red goji berry, but it shares similar growing habits and its berries give the same health benefits.
Black goji key facts:
Botanical name – Lycium ruthenicum
Common name – black goji berry
Family – Solanaceae
Type – fruit shrub
Height – 6 feet (1.50 m)
Planting distance – 1½ feet (50 cm)
Exposure – sun or part shade
Soil – any type, except particularly soggy soil
Planting – spring, fall
Harvest – August to October
A very thorny shrub, perennial and very hardy, black goji is native to China and India. The black berries it produces in astounding amounts have a light, sweet taste. They are nibbled raw if properly ripened, or dried.
Considered a superfood thanks to its unique nutritional value and content (it has a great number of vitamins), black goji also is said to share numerous health benefits. These berries are used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine.
Sowing black goji berries
Best is to sow black goji berries in spring in warm soil, usually a greenhouse or room that has a constant temperature set between 70 and 60°C (20 to 25°C).
- Sow the black goji berry seeds in nursery pots or in a tray. A finely sieved sowing soil mix is best.
- Place your seeds in a miniature greenhouse.
- On average, germination occurs after 4 to 6 weeks.
Planting black goji berry
- Space your black goji saplings 20 inches from each other (50 cm), in soil that has been thoroughly loosened up. It must drain well and having added fresh soil mix is a plus.
- Soak the clumps well before planting them in full sun, adjusting the depth so that the root crown is level with the ground. Spread mulch at the foot of each one to lock moisture in.
Care and maintenance
Black goji is an extremely hardy shrub (down to nearly -15°F or -25°C). It resists drought well, and you can grow it outdoors even in high altitudes: over 12,500 feet or 3 700 m! Note that its deciduous leafage falls off during the winter season.
- This thorny, self-fertilizing shrub does best with full sun exposure, though it will still do well in part shade.
- Though it can usually cope with any type of soil (at least as long as there’s drainage, what suits it most is chalky soil with alkaline pH levels.
Black goji in pots:
When grown in a pot, black goji berry particularly appreciates temperatures in the from 60 to 75°F (15 to 25°C).
- Make sure to repot it regularly and to use a substrate where the following four items are mixed: garden soil, soil mix, clay pebbles and sand.
- The watering schedule depends on how hot it is: anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week maximum.
Diseases and pests
Black goji isn’t vulnerable to disease, except for when the weather is cool and moist in the evenings: this can trigger bouts of mildew, especially downy mildew. There aren’t any pests that attack this shrub specifically.
Harvest and keeping
Harvest the black goji berries from August to September, when they’re perfectly ripe. The blooming takes a while to appear: 3 years. This means you’ll only have berries to harvest from the fourth year onwards.
Be careful! : while still green, the berries are toxic. Soak the goji berries in lukewarm water for 24h before drip-drying them and storing them in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for up to 12 months after the harvest. Another option is to dry the black goji berries in an oven set to a low temperature (100°F or 35°C).
How to cook goji berries
- Berries are simply steeped directly in hot water for a few minutes.
- Pigments seep out and color the water to a nice purple hue
- and in the end the berries have a subtle, lightly sweet taste.