Humanity uses a very small percentage of the available plant species in agricultural culture. But even among the cultures used by people, there are species that are used locally and privately. The most striking example of this type is the Jida culture.
Jida, "Russian olive", or oriental goof
This plant has several names, in Armenia - pshat, in Central Asia - dzhida or Bukhara dzhida, probably, there is more, since its history is lost in the centuries, and the area of cultivation is quite large. But, apparently, she never went beyond personal gardens and was never grown on an industrial scale.
Its fruits are ground into flour, which is added to flour products, flour serves as the basis for seasonings, is used in folk medicine. There is a legend that its rich in sugar and nutritious fruits were used by the caravanners of the Silk Road in its northern part, instead of dates that do not grow in those places.
Since these fruits contain a large amount of dry matter and about 50% sugar, they are stored for a long time without loss of quality. To this day, scientists are engaged in a leisurely debate about the species status of this plant. Some researchers counted up to five species of the genus Loch growing in Central Asia. Not so long ago, a scientist from the Scientific and Production Center "Botanica" in the city of Tashkent, Khaidarov Kh.K. conducted his research on the issues of morphology and taxonomy of plants of the genus Loch (Elaeagnus), growing in Uzbekistan and neighboring countries. The conclusion of this scientist is that one species grows on this territory, the eastern goose (Elaeagnusorientalis)... He is close to the narrow-leaved sucker (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and perhaps they together constitute subspecies of the same species.
The fruits of suckers growing on the territory of Russia are in most cases white, very dry, but edible. True, a small amount of very tart "pulp" makes them practically unsuitable for human consumption. On the territory of Uzbekistan and adjacent countries, the fruits of the sucker have a color from light brown to dark chocolate.
Plant habit and flower shape are highly variable. The fruits of the cultivated form of the sucker are the size of a large date, their flesh is also mealy, brownish, but the taste is very sweet, with a noticeable astringency, their skin is chocolate-colored, shiny. They dry easily due to the high content of dry substances, and since the sugar content in them is about 50% + tannins, which impart astringency, they can be stored in a dry place for several years. Soaked in water, they are hardly distinguishable from those that have just been collected.
I was not aware of any attempts to grow this crop under conditions even close to those of the middle lane. The first, according to my information, who received the harvest of one of the Central Asian forms in the conditions of Samara, was Sergey Lazurchenko. Wild forms of the sucker are often found in plantings that green Moscow. These plants are planted for the beautiful silvery foliage and bright yellow flowers, characteristic of many plants of the genus goose, which stand out effectively against a silvery background, exuding a strong, pleasant smell.
From Sergei I received some fruits and several seedlings of a cultivated plant. At the moment I have 3 seedlings of this species. Of course, provided that it was possible to achieve fruiting of this culture in Samara, it requires wider testing in the Middle zone. In my garden, the seedlings have shown themselves to be quite winter-hardy, very, very demanding on light.
The angle of branching of the second-order branches in two plants is sharp, while they both grow as trees, the third seedling has a bush habit. The dying off of thin, annual shoots is a normal process for the narrow-leaved sucker, which makes its trees sloppy in the spring. The wood is hard, but at the same time 'prickly', and if you leave two powerful branches to grow at an acute angle, a break at the point of their junction is inevitable even without a load of crops. Of course, a native of arid places, even considered moisture-loving there, the narrow-leaved elk in my garden suffers somewhat from excess moisture.
Returning to the subheading of the article. "Russian olive" is the English name for the narrow-leaved sucker. Not knowing about the existence of a cultural form, the British, with some mockery (and they have all types of this genus 'olives'), called this plant this way - here, they say, what olives grow in Russia. It is also impossible not to mention that the culture of this plant is gradually being ousted from Central Asia, even in traditional bazaars, sellers pass it off as its fruits, and they have long been used in the treatment of colds, the fruits of a completely different plant - unabi. Unabi can grow in the climate of Central Asia, but in our country its culture is possible only in the extreme south of Russia.
Akigumi, or umbrella sucker
Another close plant, with a completely different fate, has prospects for growing in gardens, possibly in the middle zone, and in the south of Russia - that's right. And it is already grown there, however, they call it - however, whatever they call it. In a TV report I heard a silver goose, in a YouTube video - sea buckthorn, the names of Abkhazian barberry, shepherdia are known from the Internet. But the correct name of this plant, in the English-speaking tradition, is an autumn olive, in Russian it is an umbrella sucker (Eleagnus umberllata), according to the Japanese tradition - akigumi.
Outwardly, this plant looks like gumi, or multiflorous goose (Elaeagnus multiflora)... The most noticeable difference is that Akigumi flowers are not single, but are collected in a brush, they are similar to gumi flowers, but look more elongated in length. The fruits are about three times smaller than the gumi fruits.
Introduced from China to the United States to strengthen erosive soils, it has become the most dangerous weed there, which neither chemistry nor agromelioration techniques can take. Anywhere in the vast territory of several states, a few months are enough for him to create impenetrable thorny thickets, provided that the terrain is not mowed or other frequent field work is not carried out. Millions are spent on the fight against it, but like a Phoenix, it is reborn even where chemistry has passed, which destroys any (or selectively) plant by contact with greenery, since its seeds are readily spread by birds. They germinate, like gumi seeds, for several years. Cutting it down is not very effective because of the instant recovery by overgrowth.
In Europe, there are no such clear signs of a typical unsuccessful introduction, but the sales of forms and varieties, which this species have, are accompanied by a warning that the plant is a malicious weed. The reader, of course, will be interested in why such a plant should be grown? But even in the south of Russia there is no information that he behaves aggressively when growing an umbrella sucker. This close relative of gumi has a root system very similar in appearance to the roots of sea buckthorn. On the fibrous roots there are numerous overgrowths, but I have not seen overgrowths in my garden.
Umbellate sucker, in contrast to multiflorous sucker, has a pronounced apical dominance, as a result of which it grows in the form of a low tree. In the USA, this plant is assigned the 4th frost resistance zone (up to -40 ° C), but, most likely, the sum of active temperatures is higher there. In the conditions of my garden, only a plant planted with a large plant, more than half a meter in height, bears fruit. Small seedlings grow very slowly, often dying. The setting of fruits on the only fruiting plant in my garden is very small, a small percentage of the huge amount of fruits is set. Most likely a pollinator is required.
The seedlings I received from two regions (Samara, Krasnodar Territory) died, except for one, and 2 of our own remained. I think that the cultivation of seedlings of both this species and dzhida should be done in greenhouses, until they reach at least half a meter in height.
As a decorative species, Akigumi is quite suitable for a climate similar to the climate of the Moscow Region, as a fruit species - it certainly requires further testing, possibly the development of new forms.
The first flowers appear on it together with the flowering of gumi, that is, in the first decade of June.The fruits, having tied up and reaching the size of an apple seed, remain green, hang unchanged until the first decade of September. Their ripening is very prolonged, it continues after the first frost, until the first frost. The taste of the berries of this sucker is sweet and sour, if you chew a handful of berries at once, it is similar to the taste of a pomegranate. Perhaps, in the climate of MO, absolutely all the berries on this plant will never ripen.
In search of recipes for using the fruits of this sucker, on the English-speaking Internet, I came across several recipes for making akigumi sauce. It is argued that the mashed and scalded fruits, like the final product - the sauce, have an even more tomato aroma than from the tomatoes themselves. I do not undertake to check this yet, my harvest is too small. From gumi, I tried to make a sauce similar to the one described, but there was no tomato flavor at all. According to American scientists, Akigumi fruits contain 15 times more lycopene than tomatoes. At the moment I have one blooming umbellate sucker, formed by a bush. The thin branches on the very short main trunk are sloped in the same way as I form the gumi. Several seedlings are still very small, although the oldest of them is 3 years old. When grown at home, on a windowsill, akigumi seedlings, like gumi, are often quite strongly affected by spider mites.
Both described plants, I think, are quite worthy of wider introduction into gardens. Completely, according to my information, the genome of the described suckers has not been studied, which is why nothing can be said about the prospects of their hybridization within the genus of suckers. And to single out the species, to separate the narrow-leaved oak from the eastern, or to combine them, is impossible without a study of the genome. The same goes for gumi and akigumi. In my experience, these plants do not naturally form 'intermediate' forms. It is unclear if there can be hybrid forms between them that will combine their useful qualities.
Photo by the author