If you live in the eastern half of the United States, or a few northwestern states, it’s more than likely that you have autumn olive berries growing in your area. (Find a range map here). It’s just as likely you’ve never heard of them.
That’s really a shame, since they are tasty, so easy to harvest, and abundant. They also make great jam, fruit leather, and ketchup. Yes, autumn olive ketchup!
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Native to Asia, Elaeagnus umbellata was brought to the U.S. and planted for erosion control and to provide wildlife habitat. Autumn olive spreads easily and is now considered an invasive species.
Also known as silverberry or autumnberry, the autumn olive berries ripen in September and October. Its leaves are leathery with a silvery underside, and alternate on the branch. The berry is red and resembles a cranberry. It contains one seed and is covered with silver speckles, a distinguishing feature.
The berries are tart, but if they are quite astringent, they are still underripe. When fully ripe, they detach quite easily from the bush, which can grow up to 20 feet tall and just as wide.
Here’s Mike showing how easy the berries are to harvest:
I’ve heard some say that they enjoy eating the autumn olive raw, seed and all. I prefer using a food mill to remove the seed, and adding the puree to smoothies, or using it for other recipes. Like autumn olive ketchup.
My Squeezo Strainer makes quick work of pureeing lots of raw berries. I run the seeds and skin through the mill a second time to get quite a bit more thick puree.
I have to cook the berries first before they will run through my Foley Food Mill, but it does a nice job of removing the seed as well.
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