Friday, February 1, 2013

Can you eat silverthorn berries - and do they taste good?

Yes... and yes.

An almost ripe fruit. Unripe fruits are astringent. Like your mom.
The eleagnus family has plenty of edibles in it, though they're not well known. The best-known edible is the goumi berry - but the most common plant you'll see around central and north Florida is the "silverthorn," also known as Eleagnus pungens.

A baby silverthorn that will soon grow big. It'll grow 2-3 times as tall as you are.

Because we've had a mild winter, the berries are popping up a bit earlier than usual. This is normally a February fruit, but I got a few ripe ones at the end of January. It's hard to beat something that makes fruit so early, stands the cold, and stays evergreen. Though most people grow silverthorn as an ornamental hedge plant, it's a good edible and a good nitrogen fixer. Plant it in lousy soil and it will still thrive. I've got them growing near my citrus trees and as they grow bigger, I'll chop them back and use the trimmings for mulch. That way they're simultaneously feeding the ground with their roots and with what I drop. Win-win.

Keep your eyes on these. Soon... soon...

The fruits taste like a tart-sweet cherry. Quite nice. If you don't have any of these yet, go buy a few. They're lovely, fast-growing and hardy plants that fit excellently into a food forest.

Even if you aren't currently growing silverthorn, keep an eye out - chances are, you can snag some berries locally. This is your window of opportunity - seize it!

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At February 1, 2013 at 11:26 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

This looks like a great idea for an edible hedge plant - what say you? :)

Is it dense enough to provide screening? Or do you have to trim it to keep it bushy, and will that drastically lower fruiting? Do they get scraggly over time? I've never actually seen one of these before...

At February 2, 2013 at 9:18 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

If you let it grow unchecked, it creates a huge 15' tall mound of foliage. Nice for a far-off border privacy screen. It can be pruned back easily, though, and maintain a decent shape. My favorite hedges are the ones that include multiple species, though. Throw in a few of these, a few loquats, a few guavas, etc. and let them make an awesome mess. ;)

They do put out really scraggly long branches at certain times. Those can be trimmed (or you can lay them on the ground with a brick on top and start new plants). Once you spot your first silverthorn hedge, you'll start seeing them everywhere. It's a common plant here. The give-away is the silver underside to the leaves. Look for that.

At April 1, 2014 at 6:56 PM , Blogger drgnflyz said...

A nitrogen fixer- great! Will Silverthorn grow in SW Florida (zone 10)? Is it thorny, and is it a bush or a tree? If it will grow in my zone, any idea where to find a start? Thanks

At April 1, 2014 at 7:00 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Good question. It's not "supposed" to grow down there, but it probably will. You can usually find them at ornamental landscape nurseries up here. If I manage to start cuttings up here I can also send you one.

At July 8, 2014 at 3:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have very nosy neighbors and in four years, I have a beautiful fence. They will grow any and everywhere. If you don't eat the berries pull them off, put them where you want them to spread and watch them grow. The State of Florida ask that you not plant them. But they are an awesome fix to bad neighbors. PS make sure you leave room for them to spread, or they will choke out you other plants.

At July 12, 2015 at 1:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone have any seeds - i was only able to buy autumn olives seeds - i cannot find silver thorn seeds anywhere?

At July 14, 2015 at 10:34 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

You can usually find plants at ornamental plant nurseries in mid-north Florida. Seeds, no.


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