Edmonton’s Wild Goji Berries
Goji berries are a woody brambling shrub in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family; the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. When permitted, Goji produces long thin branches that root when they touch the ground but can be trained to grow on a trellis. Goji berries are native to Asia.
The plant produces edible fruit and leaves. Goji fruit is oblong and looks like a tiny Roma tomato or pepper; astringent, the fruit sweetens in the fall and is commonly consumed after being dehydrated – think little sun-dried tomatoes. The leaves can be eaten raw or prepared in stirfries.
Wild Chinatown Goji Berries
Goji berries have become popular at local nurseries over the last decade, but many people don’t realise that a hardy, Edmonton lineage of this plant has naturalised and perfectly adapted itself to call this city home.
When the Chinese community first settled in Edmonton many of them took up farming. According to the author Kathryn Chase-Merrit, in her book “Why Grow Here” the Chinese community owned and operated as many as fifteen market gardens around the City – many located in Edmonton’s river valley. Among the plants that they would have grown were goji berries – a brambly shrub in the tomato family that produces oval orange-red berries and edible leaves popular in soups and prized for their medicinal qualities.
While the market gardens are long gone – some pushed out due to controversial city policy – at least one by the flood of 1915 – many large goji berries remain. The decedents of plants imported by the Chinese community they have long made the North bank of the river their home; longtime residents of Edmonton’s downtown.
Kilkenny Goji Berries
Seedling grown from the fruit of a massive and productive back-alley Goji in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Kilkenny. Planted by a Chinese family in the last 70s or early 80th the original owners have since moved.