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10 Feb 2006

Eleagnus ebbingei – it actually fruits!

el*Eleagnus ebbingei* is one of the classic permaculture plants, a nitrogen fixing, evergreen, early fruiting windbreak shrub. Ken Fern in his book ‘Plants for a Future’ talks about finding a mature bush on the roundabout near Heathrow airport covered in juicy red berries in April, a time of year when most other fruits barely even have leaves on. When in Ireland I did a few permaculture designs for people and always included some of this plant, telling the clients what a wonderful plant it was and how they were going to love the berries. None of them ever saw a single berry. I was beginning to think that it was a myth, and that *Eleagnus ebbingei* was purely a decorative shrub with no fruiting abilities, when I got an email from Graham Strouts, who took over teaching the permaculture course in Kinsale from me. 4 years ago the students and myself had planted an edible hedge, to hide a rather ugly car park and also to give some produce. It included hazel, elder, wild pear, other things I can’t remember now and *Eleagnus ebbingei*.

eleIn all my time there it never fruited, but now I have gone, this week it produced some fruit (I’m sure it is nothing personal). Not many, but its a start. So, I am vindicated, it does fruit, and earlier than April, fruit in February, that has to be something to get excited about. As to the taste, Graham writes, “Most aren’t ripe yet- I tasted one reddish one that was quite sweet but left a slightly dry taste on the tongue”. This probably would have improved with being let a little longer, I know *Myrtus ugni* is not much to write home about until it is truly ripe, and then it is sensational. Fruit on Eleagnus may not get many people in a dither of excitement, in fact Graham writes, “I’m not sure the students were quite convinced or appreciated what all the fuss was about!”, which is completely understandable, but for those of us who have spent years in pursuit of its mystical properties, it is the horticultural equivalent of the scientists who recently discovered a whole new area of pristine rainforest in New Guinea full of previously undiscovered species. The promise is huge, and February fruit salads await for all…

Categories: Food, Peak Oil, Permaculture

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Graham Strouts
11 Feb 4:21pm

Interestingly, after Ken Fern has made E.ebbingei famous as “the plant for all reasons”, in the latest work on forest gardening by David Jacke- who takes the concet and practice onto a whole new level with his massive two-volume “Edible Forest Gardens”- it doesnt even get a mention. Instead, Jacke advocates the Goumi- Eleagnis multiflora. I found one source of seeds for this plant on the net at
Anyone any experience of this variety, or fruits on E. ebbingei?

Kevin Feinstein
24 Apr 2:11am

Wow! I’m always amazed to find other people out there doing the same things I am. I also thought the evergreen Elaeagnus (E. ebbingei and E. pungens) fruit were a myth. But in my garden this year they fruited and were spectacular in taste. Does anyone anywhere know what triggers more fruit?

I do have experience with the deciduous Elaeagnus as well, (E. umbellata and E. multiflori, Autumn Olive and Goumi respectively). They seem to fruit more consistently and much much more profusely. The taste is very similar to me, although the fruit and seed is much smaller. Although there is no way for me to know this, it TASTED like the deciduous Elaeagnus had a higher fat content and vitamin richness.

Does anyone know about medicinal uses of the leaves?

27 Feb 12:22am

are they etible at all? I have one outside my house with alots oof those berrries on them…WELL ARE THEY!?!?

Margaret Brooks
27 Feb 2:39am

My neighbor has a hedge of eleagnus that is 20 feet high, loaded with berries. I would like to know if you can make jelly or juice out of them. I live in Lucedale Ms and would appreciate any comments or information on what can be done with these berries.

2 Mar 2:58am

I have the Eleagnus hedges in the backyard of a house I bought last year. I’ve been on a search to determine what the hedge is and what to do with the berries. These are all good comments and would like to confirm they are edible. What I would also like to know is if the berry is toxic to pets, specially dogs. My Sassy nearly died last week which the vet said is likely something she has eaten in the yard. I haven’t found anything regarding the eleagnus but know that fruit like grapes and such are toxic to dogs so am curious. Does anyone know?

2 Mar 9:00pm

Hi Folks
They are definitely edible (that is if the shrubs you have are definitely Eleagnus). Follow the links in the article above to the Plants for a Future site, all the details are there. It is often held out as a holy grail plant, a nitrogen fixing evergreen that makes edible berries before anything else…. tuck in!