For years I heard Union County Agent Robin Bridges talk about goumi berries. I thought I knew quite a few things about horticulture, but I had never heard of, nor seen a goumi berry plant. I thought he was making this plant up. Who ever heard of a goumi berry--a more unlikely name I cannot imagine. He would bring me a jar of goumi berry jelly but I am not much of a jelly eater, so others have eaten it. Finally a few years back he brought me a start of the plant. I have dutifully watered it and it has grown with no problems, but I did not see any fruit. Last year I may have had a flower or two, but no fruit. Then this spring it was covered in fragrant blooms,
which were followed by small green fruits.
This week, the fruit started turning color and it is ripe.
Do I think they taste good--NO, but they are pretty. They are sour without a ton of flavor, but I have now grown goumi berries.
Believe it or not, the plant is an elaeagnus, (Elaeagnus multiflora) related to our fall blooming landscape shrub Elaeagnus, autumn olive and Russian olive. Unlike some of its cousins, goumi is a non-invasive, non native shrub and so far, at least, does not have a bad hair day like the evergreen shrub.
While its nutritional qualities are not well researched, it is possible that it has nutritional value similar to some autumn olive varieties, including high lycopene content. I think it tastes sort of like a sweet tart.
Goumi is a non-native fruiting plant from the Russian Far East, China and Japan, where it is highly valued as a medicinal plant as well as for its edible fruit. It was introduced to North America from Asia well over 100 years ago, but I think I am not in the minority that I had never heard about it. The fruits are small and while it may make good jelly, I for one, would not have the patience to seed them all and cook them into syrup or jelly. Hats off to Robin for doing that. In my opinion, it would be a pretty edible ornamental. The flowers are fragrant, and the fruits are quite attractive. Now, where do you get one? That may be the biggest issue, since I don't think they are easy to propagate and it took me years before I had one. It will grow in full sun to pretty heavy shade. Mine was in definitely filtered sunlight and I still got good blooms and fruit.
If you can find one, plant it. It is pretty and if you like tart fruit, edible. Thank you Robin Bridges for introducing me to a new plant.