Goumi-A fantastic plant for the Permaculture garden or mixed border! By Rachel Rourke

goumi berry2Elaeagnus Multiflora commonly known as Goumi, gumi, cherry elaeagnus, cherry silverberry and natsugumi is a beautiful and useful plant that deserves recognition. Goumi is a small to medium fairly dense shrub that is native to eastern Asia. It is deciduous to semi evergreen depending on the zone in which it is planted.

Why should I grow goumi, you ask? There are many great reasons  I will share with you here.
First off, goumi is a really beautiful plant with a lot going for it ornamentally. The silvery undersides of the leaves have a shimmery effect in the breeze. If you are a plant nerd like me then that would be reason alone to grow goumi but, behold there is a plethora of greatness this plant has to offer. The flowers are some of the first to bloom in my garden in April. They are pungent with an aroma reminiscent of lilac or Jasmine and are a great source of nectar attracting pollinators such as mason orchard bees. It also does a great job of providing food to wildlife such as birds as the unharvested fruit will remain on the bush well into winter.
This plant is easy to cultivate and grows well in a variety of conditions. It does best on sun but will tolerate partial shade. It even tolerates salt water making it an ideal choice for maritime conditions.
One of the best qualities this plant has to offer the gardener is it’s ability to pull nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil via it’s roots improving fertility making it a excellent choice in the Permaculture garden or food forest as a part of the shrub layer. The unique nitrogen fixing abilities this plant has allows it to send nitrogen into the soil making it readily available to nearby plants. Orchards that have used goumi to aid in adding nitrogen to the soil have reported a ten percent increase in fruit tree production!
Finally, a single plant will produce thousands of edible berries! The berries are round to oval, about one cm long, orange with silvery scales ripening to a dotted red. They are somewhat tart with a flavor that is a cross between a cranberry, rhubarb and and pomegranate. Each berry has a single seed that is edible but fibrous. Though tart, they can be eaten fresh when ripe. Under ripe fruit can be left for wildlife or can be picked and made into syrup that can be frozen and used along side pancakes or french toast or added to sparkling water to make a divine shrub beverage. It can also be used in baking pies or making fruit leather or in canned goods like preserves, jams, and jellies. The berries are high in fats, proteins and vitamins A and E.  Now that you know of the many benefits, I hope many of you will choose goumi for your gardens. To your fruitful harvesting!!

Rachel Rourke lives in the Skyway neighborhood located between south Seattle and Renton with her husband, daughter, dogs and chickens. She and her husband provide eco-friendly garden design, maintenance and consulting. Rachel can be reached at myhealingart@gmail.com or by phone (206)554-1619

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One thought on “Goumi-A fantastic plant for the Permaculture garden or mixed border! By Rachel Rourke”

  1. But wait, there’s more! 😀

    The leaves of Goumi and Silverberry alike (given that both are closely-related species of the Elaeagnus genus) can be steeped in boiling water that produces a throat-soothing herbal tea to effectively stop chronic coughs and alleviate sore throats. Or so, according to several reliable ethno-botanical sources (from Asia).

    Unfortunately, detailed information in the Western world is lacking as to how to prepare the leaves for such use and/or whether or not they require prepping at all. (Use them fresh? Dried? Oxidized/aged, like that of processing Camelia sinensis leaves for brewing traditional black tea?) I will be experimenting (albeit cautiously) with this, and then report back.

    Furthermore, I have been contemplating if Goumi (Elaeagnus multiflora) and Silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata) can be cross-pollinated to produce a hybrid. Granted, their blooming periods are somewhat staggered, but there may be an overlap within some climates which might provide for a feasible cross-pollination window, however brief. After all, the well-known commercial ornamental by the outdated horticultural taxonomical designation of “Elaeagnus x ebbingei” (now changed to *Elaeagnus x submacrophylla*) is a hybrid between E. macrophylla and E. pungens. Hence, it stands for me to tantalizingly conjecture that perhaps I can breed a hybrid between E. multiflora and E. commutata. The intended result is to create a hybrid that combines Goumi’s particularly desirable, mass-harvestable fruit qualities with that of Silverberry’s high ornamental interest (such as striking variegation in some cultivars) and 100% evergreen hardiness. (Goumi is only climate-dependent semi-evergreen, whereas Silverberry is fully evergreen.)

    Meanwhile, thank you for posting this fabulous little article, Rachel Rourke.

    ~ Igor

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