Autumn Olive, Japanese Silverberry, Autumnberry.... These are all names for the often-dreaded plants in the Elaeagnus genus. Viewed by most as an invasive species, these plants are seen as relentless nuisances that need to be destroyed. What most people don't realize is that this abundant plant is both edible and highly medicinal!
One of my favorite aspects of this bush is its abundance. Since moving to New Jersey, I have noticed that it grows almost everywhere, especially alongside roads, in fields, and in backyards. The USDA Forest Service states that a mature Autumn Olive tree can produce around 30 pounds of fruit a year - many of which can be yours simply for the price of a little time and effort. The berries are tart and tangy, and if you remember not to bite on the single seed in the middle, they can be used to liven up salads, be made into jams, or be crafted in a delicious liquor (which is what my teacher, Holly Bellebuono, does with her harvest of them). They also contain a number of health-promoting constituents, the primary one being Lycopene, an oil-soluble phytonutrient that is is believed to be useful in the prevention of prostate, throat, skin, and mouth cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease.
>> Autumn Olive <<
Name: Autumn Olive, Japanese Silverberry (Elaeagnus spp)
Taste: astringent, tart/sour (unless very ripe)
Constituents: lycopene (17x more than a tomato), vitamins A, C, & E, bioflavonoids, fatty acids
Uses: eaten fresh, jam, pie filling, fruit leather, cordial, vinegar tincture, oil extraction (for lycopene)
After I picked a cup or two of berries, and after I had a handful or two of thorns in my feet, I thanked the Autumn Olive bush for giving me these gifts, placed a strand of hair on its branches, and listened to what it had to say. It suggested its berries be used for immune system support, which science would tell us comes from its vitamin C and bioflavonoids. It also spoke of being a grounding or earthing plant, one that would help me connect with the seasons as I prepare for my first ever fall and winter. This plant is the first plant I have really connected with since my big move up North, and I am grateful for both its abundance and its willingness to share it with me, the birds that live in its branches, and the furry squirrels that play there. // In gratitude, Blaire
Sources: Black, B.L. and I. Fordham. 2005. Autumn Olive: Weed or New Cash Crop? // Janick, Jules, and Robert E. Paull. The Encyclopedia of Fruit & Nuts.