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Not to be confused with goji berries, goumi berries are yet another type of berry that offers a slew of health benefits. Unfortunately, they are not known in commercial markets because they don’t transport well, much the same as mulberries. Luckily, they make fantastic additions to gardens, and they can grow throughout most of the United States. They are also delicious.
For those interested in growing some of their own food at home, the goumi berry can be a valuable asset as a super-powered plant, be it part of a hedge, part of an orchard, or put in a pot. For those striving for a healthy diet, the goumi can be featured in plant-based (or otherwise) nutrition, providing a myriad of vitamins, minerals, and so on, with a unique flavor.
So, without further ado, let’s get to know the goumi berry.
Goumis for the Garden
All plants are not created equal, or even better put, not all plants create an equal environment. In other words, some plants take a lot of love and care, and often these plants provide delicious fruits or beautiful flowers in exchange. Other plants are known as weeds, but they do the important work of repairing or protecting soils. Goumi berry trees do both of these things.
Goumi berries are from the genus Elaeagnus, a group of plants that take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil. The small selection of flora that does this is called nitrogen-fixers. This natural action is beneficial to other plants because nitrogen is an integral part of fertilizer, so the plants growing near to nitrogen-fixers, like goumi, get a boost.
Most garden crops we see in the produce section, e.g. squash, melons, lettuce, cucumbers, and so on, are from annual plants. Annual plants take much more nutrients from the soil than perennials because annuals have to move from propagation to maturity in the span of a year. Perennials take years to mature, have better roots for mining minerals, and don’t require replanting every year. Goumi trees will provide food for years without growing them anew!
Like most nitrogen-fixers, goumi trees have the natural role of repairing depleted soils, giving them renewed fertility. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that goumi berries will thrive in poor soils, as well as help other plants do it. Plant two or three of these around a fruit tree and they’ll help it overcome lackluster soil conditions.
Being perennial, fixing its nitrogen, and tolerating bad soils, the goumi berry is wonderful at self-care. Once established, it will survive for years without being fussed over. This is partly because it supplies its own fertilization via nitrogen-fixing bacteria nodules on its roots. It prefers poor soils and is drought-tolerant, so it won’t require early care to get going. That’s an ideal plant to include in any garden.
Goumis for the Food
Despite being highly productive plants that are easy to grow, goumi berries haven’t gotten a lot of attention in supermarkets because they don’t transport well. Goumi berries must be completely ripe to be eaten or used in food, and the window for using them may just be too small for mass production. But, they are a great option in the home garden.
Eating fresh goumi berries does take some experience. Berries that aren’t completely ripe have a notably and disappointing astringency, similar to that of persimmons. But, berries that are ready for consumption are juicy, sweet, and tart, something akin to rhubarb. For the best flavor, growers have to be attentive around harvest time.
Like other berries, goumis have all sorts of nutritional benefits to tout, starting with a good complement of vitamins and minerals. They also have anti-cancerous attributes, such as flavonoids. Goumi berries, particularly the edible seeds, are also a notable source of essential fatty acids.
Raw or Cooked
The fruit and seeds of the goumi berry are edible, and they can be eaten raw or cooked. They make a tasty snack in the garden, or when cooked, like other berries, they are excellent in jams and desserts. For more adventurous chefs, they can be used to make wine, syrup, and other food of love sort of stuff.
In permaculture terms, it’s hard to get a species much better than this. It’s a perennial food-producing plant that tolerates poor conditions and provides nitrogen to the plants around it. Even better, it’s such a pretty plant that it’s often used as an ornamental. The goumi berry is definitely a plant worth knowing.
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