I want to briefly share my enthusiasm for an amazing group of plants that are in the genus Elaeagnus. They are called Russian Olive, Autumn Olive, and Goumi, sometimes Silverberry, but I call them all Elaeagnus. (pronounced el ee AG nus.) They are all tough shrubs/small trees, some are evergreen, others deciduous, and they fix nitrogen in the soil with an actinorhizal symbiosis with a Frankia bacteria. This feature not only allows them to grow in poor soils, but also adds to their use as a permaculture plant. They make great companions to many fruit and nut trees. They are also sold in the ornamental nursery trade because of their beautiful gold and silver dotted foliage (and their toughness). Despite all these wonderful traits, the best use of Elaeagnus in my opinion is eating! They make wonderful red berries (technically fruit) that are extremely nutritious, containing not only vitamin C and beta carotene, but the rare and vital fatty acid, Omega 3! Beyond that, the fruits contain ridiculously high amounts a lycopene, a proven cancer fighting agent. The seed is also edible, and contains a high amount of protein.
I could talk about these plants for hours, and I have had many very significant dream encounters with these plants. But for now, I just really want to share what’s happening in my garden, where I have planted nearly 20 Elaeagnus plants — Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive), Elaeagnus umbellata (Autumn Olive), Elaeagnus multiflora (Goumi), as well as Elaeagnus pungens (the evergreen type). Currently, the deciduous Elaeagnus have just begun to produce flowers (which smell very sweet like a children’s candy.) The evergreen type started flowering in the fall, and despite record frosts in our area, produced fruit over the winter. Now, a few days after the spring Equinox, the evergreen Elaeagnus in my garden have ripe fruit. And these are 5 times or more the size of the small berries produced by the decidious Elaeagnus. The one you are looking at in the top picture is the first evergreen Elaeagnus fruit I have ever eaten. It was delicious. The seed, like my man Ken Fern at pfaf.org claims, did taste like a peanut! So cool! — flowers of one type at the same time ripe fruit of the other. But all of course are streaked with gold and silver.
photos copyrighted by Kevin Feinstein 2007.