When Aldergrove B.C. bell pepper grower Peter Breederland decided to branch out in 2010 — he got ambitious.
He went beyond mini bell peppers all the way to goji berries, a crop with little Canadian history.
So he decided to create one and ended up with a thriving 10-acre crop he claims makes him Canada's only, or at least the largest-scale goji berry farmer in the country.
"'I considered myself to be a bit adventurous, a bit of a visionary person," said Breederland, a self-proclaimed goji berry pioneer.
"We had to do our own research," said Breederland.
He spent a few years experimenting with his "secret" crop, until he learned a few things about growing the vibrant red berries often used in traditional medicine in Canadian climes.
It turns out the berries/herbs grown for 2,000 years in China love Canadian summer and can survive the winters, he said.
Now he's looking to market the fruit beyond the usual dried raisin-like variety, luring people to by fresh with his U-pick option and hawking smoothies and other uses for the berry.
Mysterious goji berries
Goji berries, often dubbed a "super food" that is "nutrient-rich," is mainly grown in China.
They can be eaten fresh, but are very fragile, similar to raspberries.
The taste is described as having a tinge of sweetness with a very slight herb-like aftertaste.
"It's a little bit like eating a cherry tomato," said Denise Breederland.
"It looks like a jelly bean," she added.
Blueberries are a B.C. summer staple for the health conscious — full of lycopene and other antioxidants.
Now, goji berries are another option, though many of the health claims are unclear.
There's little science that backs up celebrity beliefs that the berry can cure cancer or act as a fountain of youth, but they are loaded with beta-carotene, a pigment that's beneficial to the skin.
Celebrity endorsed fruit
Madonna and Liz Hurley love the jelly bean-like fruit. As it turns out, so do birds.
Breederland has to protect the red fruit in his fields with a regime of care and fake bird sounds broadcast amid the vines.
"It imitates the sounds of birds in distress. So real birds will not be attracted to this field because they hear birds in distress," he explained.
They have already had customers show up, claiming they were sent by doctors and told to eat goji berries for everything from macular de-generation to weight loss.
Goji berries have high concentration of zeaxanthin, which is found within the central macula of the human retina. Some very preliminary studies have shown promising results using goji berries to benefit eyesight.
Breederland says he tends to nibble on them as he walks the field, but he's not sure how many he eats every day.
"I just keep eating them ... so I don't keep track."