The Joys of Spring: Goumis


A few years ago I began a project to grow fruits that offered maximum antioxidants with minimum carbohydrates, in other words fruits very different from the swollen sugar-pops that fill the American grocery store. I had been reading with great interest about Goumi berries because genus Eleagnus thrives in my area with relatively little water. I planted three of them, and over the next two years they got a bit bigger but nothing much happened. Last year, their third year, they grew over 5 feet tall and one produced three tiny berries. Hardly an exciting outcome. But this year they have already earned their place; all three are covered with scads of small discreet blossoms and when the sun hits them, the scent that they throw all over my front yard is indescribable. It has the honeyed spicy sweetness that characterizes Russian olives in bloom, but without the grape Koolaid note. Utterly delicious. They are humming with bees, and I do wonder what Goumi honey would taste like.

The bush seldom tops six feet, and unlike their relatives the Russian olives and autumn olives, they are thornless.  They are nitrogen fixers and tolerate my poor alkaline soil, and are not demanding about water. I soak mine every two or three weeks and ignore them the rest of the time. They are not dangerously invasive like their cousins. I hope that later in the year I’ll be reporting on fruit production and quality. The berries have a high lycopene content and the seeds inside contain a quantity of omega-3 fatty acids.  But even if I had no interest in the fruit, they would be the stars of my early spring yard. Sometimes my message is a simple one: grow this plant, you’ll like it.

6 responses to this post.

  1. I have several I’m still waiting to get fruit from. I look forward to your review then, especially as to their size because I’m told they are much larger than E.umbellata.


    • Posted by wooddogs3 on March 31, 2016 at 6:35 am

      I had heard the same, but the three berries that I got were little tiny things about 1/4″ long. I am hoping that fruit from more mature bushes might be bigger. They did taste pretty good, quite tart but a nice flavor. Forager/author Sam Thayer says that fruit leather is the best use for the berries of E. umbellata, and another cookbook says they are best frozen whole and thrown into the blender with some sweetener to make sherbert. I am hoping that the you is lend themselves to similar uses.


    • Posted by wooddogs3 on March 31, 2016 at 6:46 am

      By the way, do you have E. commutata in your area? I have read that fast sloughs of them can be found throughout the Eastern US, but I’ve never seen one.


      • Never seen it myself. Last time I saw its range on the USDA most of the eastern US doesn’t have it. It’s more northern midwest and Canadian. The ‘Quicksilver’ variety is quite pretty though. I’ve thought about getting it just for the looks.

  2. Hi Heather,
    Do you think Goumis would survive (and thrive) in our soggy Pacific Northwest climate? I do see a few Russian olives around here but they seem to be everywhere east of the Cascade range in the dryer side of the state.


    • Posted by wooddogs3 on April 4, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Azar, sorry I missed this when you posted it. I have a lot of faith in genus Eleagnus to survive hardship, and would certainly give goumis a try there.


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