Trading in the hurly burly of the big city – Lisbon – for a patch of long-ignored space far away from commercial tourism and late-night partying, was the result of a considered plan and a desire for a new lifestyle chapter; the decision to plant goji berries – 5,000M2 of them – was the result of a considerable amount of research, and a respect for the future of sustainable agriculture.
“Firstly, it is a plant that requires little water,” explains Artur. “Secondly, it is one that adapts well to the surroundings of the land we had purchased here in Paderne where temperatures can go below -4º in the winter and reach up to 40º in the summer. Thirdly, because goji berries are regarded as a superfood, and not commonly found in Portugal, they presented an opportunity.” And it was an opportunity Leonel recognised fast, having been involved with aromatic plants for a decade.
That the farm sits right on the Via Algarvian means that walkers, mountain bike tours and safari jeeps pass by daily, bringing with them visitors to the area with a newfound curiosity. Adventurers with Dirt-Ebikes and Allsafari Tours stop, stare at the row upon row of bushes laden with scarlet berries, and want to know more… and taste. As a result, the farm has been opened to the public for educational visits and sampling sessions, not just of the newest crop of goji berries, but of other regional products made with them including teas, jams, gin, cosmetics, energy bars, juice, frozen and dehydrated goji berries.
In the shade of a huge umbrella, Artur talks visitors through the goji berry properties that health experts and nutritionists are increasingly promoting.
Known for their sweet flavour and brilliant colour, gpji berries have been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years and today are included ins supplements and many super-foods along with other herbs and fruits. It is said that they slow signs of aging, help with eye health, and strengthen the liver, kidneys and lungs. Containing important antioxidants, they may reduce inflammation and offer protection against a number of chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
Online there are countless recipes using fresh or dried goji berries – everything from bread and cakes and biscuits to smoothies, salsa and soups, along with the latest findings on the health-giving benefits. Always check out research from official sources, as well as possible interactions with certain medications.
The fresh berries, Artur points out, should be eaten right away, while dehydrated berries can be stored for two or three years and are ideal to use with cereals, yoghurt, and ice cream.
To many of the farm visitors – to most in fact – this is all news, and very good news – and they leave having learned something, and more often than not having treated themselves to a new taste. As time goes on there’ll be more to discover, as Artur and Leonel roll out their plans for an organic and sustainable plantation of aromatic herbs, and a vegetable garden. Animals will also take up part of the space. “Bringing life to this land is our mission,” they say.
Each year harvesting starts in June and can end in October; during that tine berries are picked whenever they are ripe and sometimes that mean daily. Crops go to a local cooperative, the same one the boys bought the plants at the start.
Goji Farm, Paderne
T: 965 444 187 E: Gojilandpaderne@gmail.com