Bark, fruit, seed.
The American silverberry plant possesses a number of therapeutic properties and, hence, has specific applications in treating several health problems. For instance, traditionally people have been using a potent decoction prepared from the shrub's bark blended with oil in the form of an ointment for children enduring frostbite. Currently, studies have been undertaken to examine the berry as a food with a potential for decreasing the risks as well as occurrences of cancer. In addition, the plant is also being examined to find whether it possesses the ability to reverse carcinogenic growths. Traditionally, people belonging to a Thompson tribe used a decoction prepared with the roots of American silverberry and sumac roots internally with a view to cure syphilis. However, currently this medication is considered to be poisonous and its use may result in the patient becoming sterile for life. Aside from the therapeutic uses of American silverberry, the fibrous bark of this shrub is often used by locals to make strong ropes and also weave the fiber for clothing and blankets. In addition, the fiber is also used to make baskets, mats and headbands. The tribe known as the Blackfoot used the berries of this shrub to make soap. Similarly, tribes like Thompson, Blackfoot, Arapaho, Cree and Tanana employed the berries and the seeds of the herb to make beads. An extract from the small yellow aromatic flowers of the American silverberry is used to make perfumes as well as massage oils.
The fruits of the American silverberry are ovoid drupes which are edible both in raw condition as well as after cooking them. They are dry and mealy. Ideally, they can be added to various soups as a thickener or used to make a delicious jelly. However, you can only enjoy the fruit raw when it is completely ripe, because the raw fruit of American silverberry is extremely astringent. This fruit encloses a solitary seed, which is also edible. The seed of this fruit can also be consumed raw or after cooking. One can also eat the seed along with the ripened fruit. However, the seed case is somewhat fibrous.
The American silverberry shrub can be grown very easily since it thrives in nearly all types of soils, provided the drainage is good. However, this plant loathes being grown on shallow chalky soils. Silverberry has a preference for a light sandy soil, which is just reasonably fertile. This plant also succeeds in infertile as well as arid soils. The American silverberry needs to be grown in full sunlight. These plants can endure drought well and are extremely resistant to the wind. The American silverberry is an extremely resilient plant that has the ability to endure temperatures to roughly -40�C. It has been found that the American silverberry (Elaeagnus commutate) enjoys a symbiotic relation with specific bacteria present in the soil. These bacteria develop nodules on the roots of the plant and help to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. While a fraction of this nitrogen is used by the growing American silverberry plant itself, the remaining is utilized by other plants in the vicinity. This way, American silverberry shrubs help other plants in their neighbourhood. It is a wonderful companion plant, especially when cultivated in orchards, as it helps to augment yields from the neighbouring fruit trees by as much as 10 percent. Interestingly enough, many people often mistake Elaeagnus commutate plants with another species called E. angustifolia, though the fact is that they are very different. The American silverberry produces suckers readily. Often they send up the suckers at some distance from the original plant and these give rise to new plants as well as new sources of food. The American silverberry is particularly resilient to onslaughts by honey fungus. The American silverberry plants are mainly propagated from their seeds, which are ideally sown in a cold frame immediately after they are mature. Preferably, you need to sown them at such a time that they germinate during the end of winter or beginning of spring. The seeds are very slow germinating and it may usually take about 18 months for them to sprout. In fact, stored seeds germinate more slowly, and they usually take over 18 months to sprout. However, applying a warm stratification for about a month, which is followed by three months' cold stratification, may help the seeds to germinate earlier. Usually, the seeds of the American silverberry germinate well when you apply these processes. Once the seedlings appear and they have grown to a sufficient height and are easy to handle, prick them individually and plant them in separate pots. You may plant the young plants outdoors when they have grown to a height of no less than 15 cm. Alternatively, American silverberry shrubs can also be propagated by cuttings of semi-mature wood. Ideally, each cutting should be anything between 7 cm and 10 cm and have a heel. Make the cuttings between July and August and plant them in a cold frame. You can also make cuttings from the mature wood of the current year's growth. In this case each cutting should be about 10 cm to 12 cm in length along with a heel and they should be planted in a cold frame between October and November. Usually, growth of new plants from such cutting is somewhat sluggish and, hence, you need to leave them for about 12 months to produce new plants. This plant can also be propagated via the layering process, which should ideally be undertaken in September or October. This process of growing new plants is also very sluggish and may take about 12 months. Even the relatively larger suckers of the plant can be used for growing new plants. These suckers can be planted directly into their permanent locations. However, it will be better if you plant the smaller suckers in pots and allow them to grow in a cold frame till they develop roots and are well established.
Chemical analysis of the fruits borne by plants belonging to the Elaeagnus genus has shown that they are loaded with various vitamins and essential minerals. In fact, these fruits contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and flavonoids, in addition to a number of bio-active chemicals. In addition, these fruits are a reasonably good essential fatty acid source - something that is quite strange for any fruit.