Goumi/Gumi/Cherry elaeagnus/Cherry silverberry
Referred to as either Goumi or Gumi, but also as Cherry silverberry and scientifically as Elaeagnus multiflora, this small rounded, deciduous and somewhat thorny shrub is a largely undiscovered plant in North America. Introduced over 100 years ago from Asia, and highly valued specifically in Korea, China and Japan, Goumi is non-native and thus far non-invasive to North America. It is a close relative to Autumn Olive, and overall is a rather hardy plant being drought tolerant and rarely having disease or insect problems. Goumi stands 2-4m in height and produces small round red berries 1-2 cm in diameter. Ripening in mid to late summer, berries are a deep scarlet red at their ripest and have a slight acidic flavour, they are commonly used in jams and pies. This plant may become more popular in the future, because it has great environmental benefits as a nitrogen fixer and strong insectary attractant, and has not be found to hold invasive properties.
“Goumi is a plant that thrives on neglect.” As previously mentioned, Goumi is a very hardy plant, they can grow in diverse soil types, wide temperature ranges, and a varying scale of sun coverage (however, full sun is best for good fruiting). This plant even tolerates salt air well, making it a great plant for our coastal regions. Goumi also can survive temperatures as low as -20’C, and even to -30’C where the above ground plant may die at these temperatures but the roots can regrow in the spring.
Goumi is what is considered a nutraceutical, a food that combines “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”, by providing health and medical benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. There are high levels of vitamin A and E, the presence of bioactive compounds, minerals, flavenoids and proteins, all adding up to an impressive combination. Their lycopene content, a red carotenoid pigment, is also the greatest of any food and has been used in the prevention and treatment of heart disease and various cancers. The extracts from the seed and berry of Goumi were used as treatments for HT-29 colon cancer, and results indicated reduced cell viability inhibited cell growth, induced apoptosis and it may contribute to suppressing cancer growth. Studies have found water and ethanol extracts from the fruit have high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties/effects with serious potential in the future.
Goumi berries are an incredible source of essential fatty acids, which is an unusual trait for a fruit and contain ascorbic acid and carotenoids as well. Seeds of the fruit are also edible, having high protein and fats, yet tend to be fibrous. Traditionally in China and Korea the leaf extracts were used to treat coughs, diarrhea, sores and itching.
Goumi used originally in Asia as an ornamental plant, has many incredible properties that make it an excellent choice for including in permaculture designs, especially on coastal climates when it can withstand salty environments. This plant seems like a ‘no-brainer’ to include in every permaculture site, because of the endless list of positive qualities and seemly absent negative qualities.
Baessler, L. (2016, June). Goumi Berry Shrubs- Tips on Caring For Goumi Berries. Retrieved from https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/goumi-berry/goumi-berry-shrubs.htm
Samuel, J. (2013, May). Goumi- Nutrition and a Nitrogen fixer. Food Forest NZ. Retrieved from http://foodforest.co.nz/goumi/
John, K. (2012, February). Permaculture Plants: Goumi. Temperate Climate Permaculture. Retrieved from http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.ca/2012/02/permaculture-plants-goumi.html
Shin, S. R., Hong, J. Y., & Yoon, K. Y. (2008). Antioxidant properties and total phenolic contents of cherry elaeagnus (Elaeagnus multiflora Thunb.) leaf extracts. Food Science and Biotechnology, 17(3), 608-612.
Lee, M. S., Lee, Y. K., & Park, O. J. (2010). Cherry silver berry (Elaeagnus multiflora) extracts exert antiinflammatory effects by inhibiting COX-2 and Akt signals in HT-29 colon cancer cells. Food Science and Biotechnology, 19(6), 1673-1677.