Goji berries and chilis have relatively little to do with each other at first glance, but for Klaus Umbach from the Umbach nursery in Heilbronn, both are a matter of the heart. The commonality here lies, according to Chinese medicine, in the "Qì", the life energy. In addition to ornamental plants with Bioland certification, Umbach also grows goji and chili plants in his nursery, and has garnered regional cooperation on a larger scale in both these fields.
Chili plants in the Umbach nursery
The goji berries are still a problem child: "Regionality and organic quality are in demand, but prices are too high for the trade." The variety also plays an important role: "We have tried many different varieties and now we can say that the Turgidus is the sweetest, earliest and most resistant. Other, more bitter varieties, that are grown abroad more cheaply, could cause problems in the trade if they would scare off potential new customers."
Above: Goji seedlings. Below: Mature plantation.
Bringing the right product to the market at a reasonable price proves to be a problem. Goji berries are often compared to other berries, which is difficult to get out of the minds of buyers and consumers. "People would never compare apples and pears, but the goji, which botanically are closely related to tomatoes or peppers, can unfortunately hardly be differentiated from blueberries."
Gojis, ready to be harvested
Umbach is working with Stefan Ueltzhöfer, Managing Director of six Edeka stores in the region, to bring about greater awareness of the Chinese exotic fruits from Heilbronn.
Klaus Umbach with Lisa Ueltzhöfer, who is responsible for the fruit and vegetable department in the markets.
In addition to the seasonal offer of fresh gojis in the assortment, there are dried Demeter products available year-round and there even is a small goji plantation -in the parking lot of an Edeka branch in downtown Heilbronn. "The customers can get an impression of the fruit for themselves, here in the parking lot," said Umbach on this project.
'Parking plantation' at the Edeka market
There is still a lot of room in the market for fresh goji berries, he knows. According to Umbach, German goji berries can be partially and regionally marketed only for lack of ready-to-pay bulk buyers. "The more attractively priced products from abroad are better received by customers - but marketers would prefer German organic goods. However, we would have to pay a kilo price of over €80 in order to make the time-consuming harvest profitable. The investments simply are no longer profitable for what we currently have." Some 50% more gojis are available currently, and the fruits are ready for the harvest in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on more than 10 hectares, Still, there are just not enough buyers.
Packaging for fresh and dried goji
Will this already be the end for goji berries in Germany? Not as far as Umbach is concerned. "I am fully convinced of this product and my Turgidus variety. It may take a few more years, but I firmly believe that sooner or later the health benefits of the gojis will prevail."
For more information about the gojis and their effects, Klaus Umbach recommends the following video: