Goji berry plants (lysium barbarum) are now available to New Zealand gardeners.
Glucina’s nursery at Matakana north of Auckland has released the new plants to garden centres throughout NZ this month.
Goji juice, dried berries and chocolate coated gojis have been the latest health trend around the world. Worldwide demand for the little red berries (aka – red diamonds) means they have been quite expensive to buy and growing your own has never come at a better time according to Kevin at Glucinas nursery.
“The cultivar we have been working on starts producing berries after it’s second year and is fully productive by year five -producing loads of the little red berries thoughout summer/autumn” he says.
Goji plants originate in the Himalayan triangle of Tibet , China and Mongolia- but nearly 100 percent of the world’s commercial production is in the fertile river deltas of China. The plant is said to tolerate a massive temperature range from minus 15C degrees right up to 40C degrees making it suitable for growing throughout NZ.
The plant is a deciduous long living perennial which develops a trunk not dissimilar to an old grape vine. It can grow to 3m tall with multiple fruit bearing branches. but pruning to suit your site is ok for small gardens. It does well in most well drained soil types but like most other plants needs protection from slugs snails and rabbits in its first year.
Goji berries have been used in China and Tibet for thousands of years as a longevity / medicinal food and over the past few years scientific analysis has uncovered some goji secrets.
The fresh goji berry has approximately 5 times more anti oxidants than any other food and as well as a full range of fatty acids vitamins and minerals the exciting scientific research is focused on several of gojis unique polysaccharides which are found in no other food. As well as hosting various anti – cancer compounds studies are being carried out on it’s muscle boosting/energy recovery properties and on a component called zeaxanthin which is believed to reduce macular degeneration of the eye.
Goji is reported to help with diabetes and heart disease and as recently as Nov 08 Dr Vivienne Reeve- a University of Sydney research scientist – announced to a Brisbane medical research conference that she had fed mice with either water or diluted goji juice and exposed them to UV radiation to give them sunburn. The goji berry drinking mice had significantly less inflammation of the skin and they didn’t get immune-suppression which is a risk factor for skin cancer development in chronically overexposed skin. It also appeared to suppress skin cancer growth she said – with another experiment showing skin cancer – induced mice had significantly slower growing tumors.
According to Kevin at Glucinas nursery the plant has commercial potential in New Zealand- as well as the berries being delicious fresh – goji leaves are also used as a nutritious vegetable, Goji extracts are being incorporated into cosmetics, tea, coffee, breakfast cereals, health supplements, sports drinks and alcoholic beverages. With China’s unfortunate position of increasingly polluted air, soil and ground water – the world is crying out for a safe supply of their favorite little berry and NZ may well be one of the best situated to supply it.