Branch with Berries Oleasters
Oleasters (family Elaeagnaceae) are a small family with only three genera. They mostly inhabit northern temperate climates, but some species extend through Southeast Asia to Australia. In Europe and Asia they have been used as minor food items and medicinals since prehistoric times. Today, one species, Sea-Buckthorn, is being hyped by high price chefs - until they find something new.   Photo of Silver Buffaloberry by SriMesh distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

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Igde - [Russian Olive, Russian Silverberry, Oleaster, Wild Olive; Elaeagnus angustifolia]
Dried Berries

Native from Southern Russia through Turkey and Iran, this shrub has been introduced to North America, where it has become an invasive. It's roots host a bacteria that fixes nitrogen, so it does fine in rather poor soils. The red fruits are lightly sweet-tart with a dry, mealy mouth feel. The photo specimens, labeled "Igde", were purchased in Los Angeles from a multi-ethnic market serving significant communities from the plant's native regions. They were about 1.0 inch long and 0.65 inch diameter. The skins are extremely thin and papery, and the dried fruits weighed 21 to the ounce. In Iran, powdered fruit is mixed with milk as a treatment for joint pain, and they are used in the traditional Persian Spring festival Haft Sin.

Sea-Buckthorn   -   [Sandthorn, Sallowthorn, Seaberry; Hippophae rhamnoides]
Fruit on Branch

Native to Nepal, this shrub spread throughout Eurasia, from Britain to China and from Norway to Spain. While long used as an ingredient in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, particularly in southern France, it has recently become an "ingredient of the moment" among high priced chefs serving the 1%. These guys live by hyping rare ingredients for a few months, then move on. The yellow fruits are tiny, taking more than 28 berries to weigh an ounce, and difficult to harvest, so the tart fruit or juice is quite expensive - perfect for the chef set.

Sea-Buckthorn is high in vitamin C, and has recently been in the news due to a Chinese study that showed it effective in supporting eye health and reducing macular degradation. The active ingredient is Proanthocyanidins, which are also in red wine, baking chocolate, apples and dried fruits.   Photo by Hans Hillewaert distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Buffaloberry   -   [Silver Buffaloberry; Shepherdia argentea | Canadian Buffaloberry Shepherdia canadensis]
Fruit on Branch

Silver Buffaloberry is native to south central Canada and north central United States, but scattered patches can be found as far south as Utah and Northern California. Canadian Buffaloberry is found across North America from the Arctic Circle down into northern United States. Buffaloberries, particularly the Canadian, were important to American Indians within their range. Though the berries can be quite bitter, the bitterness is combined with sweetness. The berries, which are about 0.20 inch diameter, can be prepared similarly to cranberry sauce or cranberry cocktail, and after they are sweetened by the first frost, can be made into jellies, jams and syrups, though usually mixed with sweeter fruit.

One major use has been in preparation of xoosum (Indian ice cream). The bitterness is from saponins, but these enable the berries to become "sudsy" when whipped. buffaloberries are mixed with sweet fruit such as raspberries and beaten vigorously until a heavy foam is created.   Photo of Silver Buffaloberry by SriMesh distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

American Silverberry - [Wolf-willow; Elaeagnus commutata]

Native to Alaska south to Utah and across Canada and the northernmost states of the United States, these shrubs are found mostly in sandy or gravely soils. Because they host nitrogen fixing bacteria in their roots, they can thrive in such poor soils. The red berries, which grow to nearly 1/2 inch long, are edible but sour and rather floury in texture, so are not sought after. The plant contains Beta-carbolines, which are somewhat psychedelic, used mostly in combination with other substances.   Photo by Sten Porse distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Goumi - [Gumi, Natsugumi, Cherry silverberry; Elaeagnus multiflora]
Berries on Branch

Native to East Asia, fruits of this shrub have long been valued as a "nutraceutical" in China, a food with medicinal value. It has been planted as a decorative in Europe and North America, where it has become somewhat invasive. The fruits can be up to 0.4 inch long and are juicy and sweet, but with an astringent taste likened to rhubarb.   Photo by Abrahami distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v2.5 Generic.

Japanese silverberry - [Umbellate oleaster, Autumn-olive, Autumn elaeagnus, Spreading oleaster; Elaeagnus umbellata]
Berries on Branch

Native from the Himalayas east to Japan, this shrub does well in very poor soil because its roots host a nitrogen fixing bacteria. The fruit is juicy and sweet-tart with chewable seeds. Although the berries are small, around 0.8 inches long, the shrub is a heavy producer, and the fruit dries well. It is very high in the antioxidant lycopene, as much as 17 times as much as an equal weight of tomatoes.   Photo by VoDeTan2 distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

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