Monday, February 27, 2012

Permaculture Plants: Goumi


Goumi is a fruit well known in Asia and gaining popularity in the U.S.

Common Name: Goumi, Gumi
Scientific Name: Elaeagnus multiflora
Family: Elaeagnaceae (the Oleaster Family)

A perfectly ripe Goumi berry with its edible, but not typically eaten, single seed.

Description:
A small to medium, multi-stemmed shrub native to eastern Asia that produces sweet-tart, red, cherry-sized fruits, can grow in a very wide range of soil conditions, tolerates some shade, and puts nitrogen back into the soil. This plant has a lot going for it.

Elaeagnus multiflora by M.E. Eaton

History:
Goumi has long been grown in China, Korea, and Japan as a food and medicinal plant. It has only been recently that it has has become available in Europe and North America.

Trivia:

  • Goumi fruit have a single seed which is edible but not tasty... it's fibrous
  • Because it adds nitrogen to the soil, Goumi has been grown in orchards where it has been reported to increase orchard production by 10%

Goumi fruits well in less than ideal conditions.

USING THIS PLANT
Primary Uses:

  • Fresh eating - use only very fresh fruit
  • Cooked (pies, tarts, etc.) - cooking, with the addition of sugar, makes good use of underripe fruits
  • Preserves, jams, jellies, etc. 
  • Fruit leather


Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Food source for wildlife... fruit may stay on the plant through the winter if not harvested.
  • Nitrogen fixing (i.e. it puts nitrogen back into the soil)
  • Hedges - leaves seem to shimmer in the breeze
  • Tolerates salt water, so can be used in maritime environments
  • Flowers are strongly scented... reminiscent of lilac
  • Used medicinally for hundreds (or more) years, but no reliable information


Yield: No reliable information available
Harvesting: Summer. Late July to August. Ripe when red, but astringent (dry and lip-puckering) before ripe.
Storage: Use quickly as they do not store well.

Goumi hedge in flower.

Goumi flowers being visited by an Orchard Mason Bee (slightly smaller than a honey bee).


DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9, not frost tender
AHS Heat Zone: 8-2
Chill Requirement: 50-450 hours/units depending on the species and variety

Plant Type: Small to Medium-sized Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous or Semi-Evergreen (depending on the USDA Zone it is planted)
Forest Garden Use: Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Multiple varieties, but many are not available in the U.S.

Pollination: Typically Self-Sterile; should be planted with two selections for cross-pollination and best crop yields
Flowering: Spring (April-June)

Years to Begin Bearing: 3-4 years, Years to Maximum Bearing: 5-10 years

Goumi berries should only be eaten fresh when perfectly ripe.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Size: 6.5-10 feet (2-3 meters) tall and wide
Roots: Shallow and flat, will sucker... new shoots will from from base of the plant
Growth Rate: Medium to Fast

Goumi is a shrub that thrives on neglect.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade
Moisture: Medium, however will tolerate dry soils
pH: tolerates a wide range of soil conditions (5.1 - 8.5)

Special Considerations for Growing: 
Goumi is an actinorhizal nitrogen fixing plant... it will grow best if inoculated with actinobacteria from the genus Frankia.

Propagation:  By seed - will require 8-12 weeks of cold stratification for germination. Can propagate through cuttings, but this is less reliable.

Maintenance:
Minimal.

Concerns:
Spreads easily by seed. It is considered an established exotic species in parts of the eastern U.S.


18 comments:

  1. Would you be willing to do a post on fruit leather? I've never heard of it before.

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    Replies
    1. Think fruit rollups. Fruit is mashed into a soft paste, spread on a drying sheet of some kind (we use plastic wrap for this) and when it's dry but still flexible it's wrapped up and used all year.

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  2. This is a very hard plant to find in Canada, if anyone knows of any Canadian suppliers I would love to buy some seedlings, or even seeds.

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    Replies
    1. Its not Canadian, but in Oregon "One Green World" has several varites.

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    2. I've been looking for goumi in Canada too, with no luck! It looks like Eleagnus umbellata (cherry olive) is a close relative and possibly more hardy for Canadian climates. Green Barn Nursery carries it (and has a whole category of permaculture plants). http://www.greenbarnnursery.ca/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=500

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    3. Richter's Herbs has seeds and plants. Also, I've read that seeds from dried goumi berries from natural food stores can be viable.

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    4. Ummm.....I think you're referring to dried goji berrries (which germinate well when planted whole), not goumi.

      Arbornaut Nursery in B.C. carries them from time to time, I see, and ships nationally.

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    5. Treeeater Nursery on Denman Island has them, and more!
      http://treeeaternursery.com/tree-eater-nursery/

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  3. Fruit leather = fruit roll-up
    Mush fruit up. Spread on solid plastic tray in food dehydrator. Dry.

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  4. Kyan, you can also do fruit leather on a baking tin in full sun and not need a food dehydrator.

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  5. I hear this could be a good plant for a peach tree guild. Anyone know? Thanks!

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  6. please email me at vannaluvspitbulls@gmail.com if you know the answer

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  7. It is hard to say exactly why this is happening, as there are a number of possibilities. How old are the plants? What is the growing conditions? What is the soil like?

    My first thought is that this is either a nutrient deficiency or a disease. I would get a good organic, multi-mineral fertilizer and treat them every couple of days at a 50% recommended concentration. I would also make some sort of manure tea (there are a number of these on the market if you don't have the time/inclination to do it yourself) and use this as a foliar spray on them.

    The other option, and this is one many people don't like, is to just let them be. If you have good soil and other plants around them are doing great, then it may mean that that location is just not well suited for goumi. Transplanting a weak plant may save it, but may likely kill it too.

    Please let me know if you do something (or nothing) and the plants make it through. That would be great information to share.

    Good luck!

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  8. Could goumi grow in zone 10? Does it need chilling just to germinate or for setting fruit too?

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  9. Actually, here in Missouri, the trees I have met are very prolific and have quite tasty fruit. I have planted 14 seeds after stratifying and am now waiting for germination. I am trying to decide if I should put them outside - Zone 6b, it freezes hard here - this winter or not. Any comments?

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  10. I know this is a really old post, but I have started two goumi bushes from starts I got off a friend's bush. It's currently November here and I'm not sure they'll survive the winter. Do you think I could plant them outside now (zone 5) or would that just kill them?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lauren, did you start them as hardwood cuttings? How did you propagate them? I was to start a few more but would rather not from seed.

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