Disclosure: We were invited to the farm as part of media, but all opinions are my own.
Blueberries, strawberries, and cherries. We are all familiar with these fruits and are lucky that the lower mainland and Okanagon boast in these produce, making it very common for u-pick during the summer. But have you heard about u-pick for goji berries?
Out in Aldergrove in the Fraser Valley, owners, Peter and Danise Breederland are excited to offer their 11-acre goji berry farm, Gojoy, for a second season of U-Pick. U-pickers are able to harvest fresh goji berries right off the vine, and given Gojoy is the only goji berry farm in Canada, this makes it a perfect stop for some summer family activity.
I was greeted by Danise Breederland, the farmer’s wife who gave me a detailed tour of their large farm. The Breederland family has been growing peppers for many years. However, they had this large piece of land and felt like it was being wasted. When Peter discovered goji berries and their “superfood status”, he was determined to grow this superfood in the fertile lands of the Lower Mainland. Countless farmers told Peter the berries wouldn’t grow, but he still decided to grow this unique crop. His success in doing so, and innovation in growing these berries and creating value-added products, is noted and commended. Gojoy is the only goji farm that has gone to market in Canada.
The goji berry actually starts as this beautiful lilac flower.
July is usually when they are the most plump and ripe. Danise said this year, the goji berry season for U-Pickers should last until mid August, but check their social media and website to stay up to date. Look at how plump these are!
I actually first tried goji berries from my mother’s cooking. Goji berries are very common in Chinese cuisine, especially in savoury and sweet soups. But one thing that’s different is that the goji berries we commonly see are dried. This was my first time trying fresh goji berries and seeing them on the plant itself. I have to say, they are much sweeter and obviously fresh. They have a bit of a bitter medicinal aftertaste, similar to a pepper. They are perfect for eating on its own, mixing with smoothies, or simply adding to savoury dishes and desserts. Gojoy has a collection of recipes on their website if you want to get inspired.
At the farm, you can U-Pick from Mondays to Fridays from 10:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 10:00am-7:00pm. They will give you a small bucket with a strap to hang around your neck/shoulder and you can then stand up and pick with both hands. The U-Pick prices are as follows:
100 gram clamshell: $2.00
450 gram clamshell: $7.50
1 kg: $15.00
They also have specials when you pick in bulk.
Other than U-Pick, you can also purchase a tree and plant your own goji berries. Peter has proven that goji berries can be grown in the lower mainland, so with some sunshine and tips from Peter himself, you will be sure to harvest many berries each year. Goji trees go for $65 for a regular size, and $85 for a larger tree.
Look at how plump these fresh goji berries we picked are! Fresh picked goji berries can last around 3-4 days. If you can’t finish them in time, then you can freeze them and they can last much longer. If you choose not to pick the gojis, you can purchase pre-picked fresh gojis or boxes of frozen gojis at the farm or at stores such as Choices across the lower mainland.
For those who want a quick and healthy smoothie, Gojoy also sells Goji Smoothie Boosters. Each bag comes with 5 frozen berry purée sticks, which is a blend of six 100% BC-grown berries (gojis, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, and strawberries) all of which are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. The goji berries are the main ingredient, and you can then add other fruits such as apples or oranges and yogurt to create the perfect smoothie. You can also just eat the sticks like freezies!
Overall, I highly recommend checking out the Gojoy farm before the U-Pick season ends. What a fun summer activity for the family and the perfect opportunity to learn more about this superfood!