Goji and Gooseberries - They pack a mighty punch!

 Goji Berries and Gooseberries have long been the “silent” berries of the bunch…but they are coming into their own!  Goji Berries are being recognised as a super fruit, because of their antioxidant properties, vitamins and minerals and Gooseberries are not far behind. What is the saying, “what is good for the goose is good for the goji?”

Goji Berries, also called Wolf Berries, are a shrub with a very wild growth habit.  They have a root system that grows deep into the soil and are adapted to grow in dry areas. They like full sun and are best suited to outdoors, where they grow between 1 – 3m tall. The leaves are small green-greyish, and the stems are long. The plant will produce berries in the second growth season, which are purple at the beginning and turn bright red when they mature. 

They are deciduous and flower in the summer and the fruits appear thereafter. Every flower will become a berry if they are pollinated and although self-pollinating, bees are the main pollinator!  The Goji Berry can be used for hedging and can be pruned back in spring to have a more compact plant.

To sow the Goji Berry seeds, use a seed starter craft soil and sow in pots or trays about 5mm under the soil. Its best to germinate them indoors in the spring, where the temperature should be 18 - 20 degrees. To start the germination process, you can place the seeds in a wet towel over night, thereafter planting into your pot or tray.  Keep the soil moist but not overwatered. The seeds will take 10-14 days to germinate.

Goji Berries can be eaten fresh, cooked or they can be dried and taste mostly like a raisin. When dried they can be added to cereals, yogurt, baked goods or simply consume on their own!

The other “G” in the berry world, the Gooseberry, is a very nutritional berry and needs to get the respect it deserves in your garden! I feel there should be at least one Gooseberry plant in your garden - I grew up with my father showing me the gooseberries on the shrubs and how to see when they are ripe to eat, how to open the strange capsule and ultimately find a delicious prize! And now my daughter finds these same delicious berries to open for herself!

We grow the Cape Gooseberry that has a very shiny orange - yellow flesh. They are produced on a shrub and grow about 1.8 m tall.  They grow in full sun and do need daily watering as they do not do well in very dry conditions. The fruit comes in a husk that you open to find a yellowish round juicy berry.

The seeds can take up to 2 - 6 weeks to germinate. The seeds need to be soaked overnight in warm water and then sown using a seed starter mix in a small tray or microgreen tray with the seeds just lightly covered by the soil medium. They need a temperature range of between 10 to 25 degrees to germinate and are best germinated indoors in a room with a lot of natural light or outside, but in a protected space from harsh weather. The flowers can appear about 70 - 80 days after germination.

You will know when the fruit is ripe, as the husk becomes dry and flaky giving you the opportunity to discover the fruit inside.  Any fruit that falls off when ripe will still be edible after a few days, so don’t let any Gooseberries go to waste in your garden! Alternatively, eat them right off the plant and let others enjoy discovering these delicious berries!

Gooseberries are long-lasting and can be stored in the fridge for a few days.  They can be used in salads, desserts or pies, as well as eaten fresh. They can also be added to smoothies, juices or to make jams!

About the Author

Adele Siemssen is the Seeds for Africa Operations supervisor.  Adele is a qualified horticulturist with 30 years of hands on experience and loves pets and assisting customers to make their garden dreams come true!