Saturday, September 21, 2013

Autumn Olive

Last year my hubby mentioned we had to small trees growing on the bank of our front yard.  He thought our crabapple had spread its wings.  This year as they grew it was obvious they were not crabapples but some other fruit barring tree. One I was unsure of but soon discovered was an Autumn Olive. By this time I had already popped a berry or two in mouth and determined they were pretty good.  They weren’t completely red at this point. It’s an invasive plant I was told.  Now, I knew where to look.  I pulled out my book Invasive Plant Medicine by Timothy Scott and there he was. Steve Brill’s name kept popping up as well.
Elaeagnus umbellate meaning sacred olive tree is from the Greek elaia (olive tree) and agnos (sacred).  The tree originates in China, Korea and Japan and was brought to the United States in the 1800s along with the Russian Olive as a supplemental food source, ornamental use, as a fast growing wind break and as a nitrogen fixing crop.  The Autumn Olive is found throughout  the eastern half of the United States and the Russian Olive is found more in the central and Western United States. 
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the stems and leaves are considered bland, cool and associated with the liver. They dispel wind and dampness, reduce swelling and stagnation. In Western Medicine the fruit is considered antimicrobial and an antioxidant.  The berries contains vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, beta-carotene, lycopene, boran, calcium, carbohydrates, protein, chromium, copper, fat, fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, tryptophan, and zinc. The lycopene levels are up to 17 times more abundant than in raw tomatoes.  Research has been done in use with cancer.  A USDA study has shown the berries inhibit the proliferation of human leukemia cancer cells and human lung epithelial cancer cells.
As a food the berries can be made into jams, jellies, and preserves, made into fruit leather, or cooked with other foods.  In Asia an alcoholic beverage is made from them.  This year our trees are loaded with berries. I read that when they are completely ripe you can run your fingers over the berries and they will drop right into your bowl.  This morning I tested that theory and harvested 16 cups of berries in about 15 minutes. Leaves came with the berries as I rolled them off the stem and into my bowl.  Tapping the bowl gently brought the leaves to the top and were easy to pick out once I was done collecting what I needed. I left plenty for the birds and animals and a few more harvests.  From the grasses matted down in front of the tree I believe Mama Bear is enjoying the fruit.
The berries are the size of a small blueberry.  They grow in clusters.  They start out green and turn a deep red.  Today’s harvest was mixed with some orange juice, cinnamon, clove and honey and cooked into a jam. It was my own variation of one of Steve Brill’s recipes.  I then ran it through the food mill to get rid of the seeds.  I ended it up with 7 cups of jam canned and ready to enjoy later.  I have a half jar to enjoy today with supper.


  1. Beautiful! Loved this post and learned so much! Thank you. :) I need to buy a jar of those preserves if you are so inclined. :)

  2. I just found out that these grow in my yard! Thanks for all of the great info!

  3. I just found out that these grow in my yard! Thanks for all of the great info!


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