Goumi berries (Eleagnus multiflora) are one of POP’s favorite food forest plants, being a nitrogen-fixing, shade tolerant shrub that also features tasty fruit!

Plant Facts

Cherry Silverberry, Cherry Elaeagnus, Cibie, Longpipe Bush, Daio-Gumi…a plant of many names, but uncommonly known in North America, the prolific Goumi Berry (Elaeagnus multiflora) is a deciduous, shrubby perennial plant with origins tracing back to China, Korea and Japan. It is one of three edible Elaeagnus species, alongside the Autumn Olive and Russian Olive and of the three, is considered the least invasive plant with the juiciest fruit. Goumi shrubs can grow up to 8ft high and wide, with distinct bell-shaped, cream colored flowers in early spring that carry a delicious fragrance and green leaves that feature a silver, shimmering underside. Its cherry-like fruit is a bright red, silver-speckled drupe that can grow up to ½ inch with a single fibrous, edible seed. Although goumi berry fruit begin turning red as early as May, their flavor may be too astringent at first and are best consumed when “dead-ripe. According to Lee Reich’s “Uncommon Fruit for Every Garden” its sweetness almost doubles” and its trademark astringency “decreases dramatically” when harvested between June and July. Here in Philadelphia, the ripening period is usually late May to early June, making it one of the first fruits to ripen in most years.  Goumi berries, even when picked before their final stages of ripeness, are an excellent contender for pies, tarts, preserves, fruit leather, and even wine!

NOTE: As mentioned above, some other species within the Elaeagnus family have been classified as invasive plants.  However, Goumi itself has shown no tendency towards invasiveness and it does not appear on any state or national invasive lists.  

Cultivation

Goumi berries are a POP favorite in orchard sites due to their early fruit production, shade tolerance, resilience and nitrogen-fixing capabilities. While they have a preference for well-drained soil, goumis are able to survive in dry, salty, alkaline and nutritionally poor soils. Plants need nitrogen to aid in photosynthesis and along with phosphorus and potassium, nitrogen is one of three key nutrients needed for plant growth. The goumi is able to form a symbiotic relationship with root-inhabiting bacteria actinobacterium Frankia that gather nitrogen from the atmosphere and feed it to surrounding plants, making it an excellent companion plant for a garden or food forest. 

A rather tough plant, goumi shrubs can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9 and are able to withstand extreme temperatures (roots can survive temps as low as -20 F ), drought and poor air pollution. Although they are tolerant to shade, they grow best in half a day of full sun and are further noted as a formidable plant companion due to being both pest and disease resistant. Goumi shrubs are partially self-fertile so while they can be planted alone, they yield a better harvest when cross-pollinating with another variety of goumi! In POP’s experience, cultivated varieties of goumi produce plenty of fruit whether or not they are planted near a companion for cross-pollination. 

Propagation

Goumi shrubs can be grown by seed or cuttings. Goumis propagated by seed require 4 weeks of warm stratification followed by 12 weeks of cold stratification to help the seeds germinate.  Cuttings should be taken in mid-to late summer, planted 2 inches deep and kept wet to prevent drying out and dying. Goumis planted by seed can expect to bear fruit in 3-10 years, while cuttings bear fruit within 3-4 years.  POP primarily plants cultivated varieties of Goumi, which feature larger, tastier fruit and more consistent production.  Available cultivars include ‘Sweet Scarlet’, ‘Red Gem’, and ‘Carmine’ and are propagated from cuttings.  

Nutritional Value

Close up photo of 4 red goumi berries hanging on a single brown branch. Several goumi berries hang out of focus in the background.
Goumi berries are small with a sweet-tart flavor, ripening in late May to mid June, making them one of the first fruits of the season! Photo Credit: Tatters

The goumi berry is a great source of vitamins A, C,  E, flavonoids, fatty acids and a heart healthy antioxidant called lycopene. Some herbalists recommend the fruit can be consumed to relieve watery diarrhea and the astringent roots may be boiled in a process called decoction,for itching and foul sores. 

Goumi Recipes!

Goumi Berry Jelly

via Sweet Aire Farm 

6 pints goumi berries

½ cup water

1 ½ cups sugar

1 box of Lower Sugar Sure-Jell

Simmer berries in water for 10 minutes and then strain through cheesecloth. Should get about 4 cups of juice.Put juice in a large saucepan. Measure sugar into a bowl, and then take ¼ c of measured sugar and mix with the sure-jell.  Add the sure-jell/sugar mixture to the juice and bring to a full rolling boil.  Add the remaining sugar, stirring constantly, and bring to a full rolling boil again.  Continue stirring and cooking for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, skim foam from top of jelly, and pour into clean jelly jars, filling to 1/8 inch of tops.  Cover quickly with flat lids, screw bands on tightly.  Invert jars for 5 minutes, then turn upright.  Makes about 5 cups of jelly.

More Goumi Berry Recipes from Sweet Aire Farm 

Goumi Berry Wine 

Before consuming goumi berries, please read POP’s edible plant disclaimer below.

Disclaimer

The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a healthcare professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment,

disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused. 

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.


This POP Blog was written by Orchard Assistant Sharon Appiah with assistance from Co-Director Phil Forsyth

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.

Sources

Lee Reich, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden

http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/e/elaeagnus-multiflora=goumi.php#:~:text=Medicinal%20use%20of%20Goumi%3A&text=The%20leaves%20are%20used%20in,treat%20itch%20and%20foul%20sores.

https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Elaeagnus+multiflora

https://www.gardenguides.com/103844-cutting-snowball-bush.html

https://www.phoslab.com/how-does-nitrogen-help-plants-grow/

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/goumi-berry/goumi-berry-shrubs.htm