Goumi - Sweet Scarlet
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Goumi berries.
Elaeagnus multiflora
Goumi - Sweet Scarlet

Acquired: 2009
How started:

Goumi is uncommon the Seattle area, and deserves to be grown more. I grow a variety of Goumi called Sweet Scarlet which was selected in Kiev, Ukraine at the Main Botanic Garden. This variety was imported and introduced by One Green World Nursery in Oregon. Jim Gilbert is the owner of this nursery, and his catalog is full of plants that he has introduced from around the world. I mail ordered one Goumi plant in 2009 from his nursery.

The latin name of Goumi is Elaeagnus multiflora. It is native to the Russian Far East, China and Japan. Other names for Goumi are Gumi, Natsugumi, or Cherry Silverberry.

The plants are actinorhizal, growing in symbiosis with the actinobacterium Frankia in the soil. These bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available in usable form for the host plant, and indirectly for other nearby plants.

Goumi berries are great fresh, nibbled right off the bush. They also make a delicious jam. I couldn't find any data to back this up, but many online authors claim that Goumi, like many other Elaeagnus species, are extremely nutritious, containing not only vitamin C and beta carotene, but the rare (rare in plants)and the vital fatty acid, Omega 3. The claims go on to say the fruits contain ridiculously high amounts a lycopene, a proven cancer fighting agent, anywhere from 17x to 3000x the level found in tomatoes. The seed is also edible, and contains a high amount of protein. A couple of authors claim the seed tastes like a peanut. I have not had enough fruit yet to eat the seed. The precious few seed that I collect goes toward growing new seedlings.

The bees love this plant in the spring. It is loaded with pollen and nectar. It is ready for harvest in late July/early August. Look out for the squirrels. They ate my whole harvest this year except for about 10 berries that I sampled early. No diseases – just squirrels.

In my opinion, the best use of Goumi is in the making of wine. I have grown a similar Elaeagnus species called Autumn Oleaster that is ready for harvest in the fall. I once fermented my entire 2-cup harvest into a single-bottle batch of wine. It came out like a golden-colored white wine. In a blind side-by-side taste test, it was preferred over a California Chardonnay.

It takes about four years to come into production. The plant takes the form of a bush. Mine is growing in the shade and is only three feet tall. It would probably do better with more sun. I want many more bushes of Goumi, so I am experimenting with different ways of propagation including rooting cuttings in a cloning machine and air layering. I also have one seedling, with hopefully more seedlings on the way.

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