Until the early 2000s, goji berries were largely unheard of in the Western World - that was until they were branded as a super-food and started to make an appearance on the shelves of health-food shops across the US and Europe.
Goji berries are the beautiful red fruit of the Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense tree, which are both native to Asia. Prized for their health benefits, goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for over a millennia and are also popular in traditional Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese medicine.
Today, the majority of goji berries consumed in the UK, US, and Canada, still come from northern China’s Ningxia region, where the berries are cultivated along fertile floodplains that have lined the Yellow River for more than 700 years. The goji berry is so important to northern China’s economy that the fruit is often referred to as a ‘red diamond’ and is celebrated each August in Ningxia with an annual festival to mark the berry harvest.
In the 1730s, the Lycium barbarum was introduced to British soil by The Duke of Argyll, though at that time, it was seen more as a decorative plant than a potential superfood. It wasn’t until the 2000s that the berry became popular enough to spark UK cultivation attempts, which were quickly echoed by the United States as consumption of goji berries became fashionable in the Western world.
The goji berry market moving forward.
Aside from cropping up to cater to regional demand, goji plantations have become popular all over the world because they can be set up quickly with little space and produce a very profitable harvest. It is estimated that, on average, a European goji plantation can make 20,000 euros per hectare by their third year, which is a lot more than most other fruit crops. The only problem with goji berries being such a profitable harvest is that cutting prices have risen to match, with goji plant cutting costs reaching anywhere between 3,500 euros and 10,000 euros for one hectare.
Despite being costly to set up, goji berry cultivation in the USA and European Union has risen steadily since the 2000s and is predicted to continue to grow until 2027 due to increasing demand from the food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries.
So there you have it - now you know where goji berries originated from and where they are commonly grown today. Have you ever tried a goji berry before? If not, you are missing out. Try them out here!