Foraging for Autumn Olives

On Thanksgiving weekend each year we forage for Autumn Olives.  They are an invasive species where we live, and can be found in abundance all around our area.  We have particular places we always go, and favourite bushes to pick from.  They can sometimes have a chalky, acrid aftertaste which can be unpleasant, so I am always the taste tester!  The boys love the berries, and we had to stop them from eating what we’d already picked.

This year we did some picking with the kids and my parents, then headed back to their house for a lovely harvest meal of zucchini soup, bread, quinoa salad, and my aunt and uncle’s eggs.  It was a lovely Thanksgiving morning.   My parents were gracious enough to watch the boys while the baby slept so that we could go back out and harvest more.

Last night we cleaned and picked over the berries, ground them up in our blender, and set them to dry as fruit leather.  We mixed most of the Autumn Olives with apples to stretch them further.  I prefer the straight Autumn Olive leather because I love sour things, but both yielded excellent results.  I lived on Autumn Olive fruit leather while pregnant last fall and winter, and have been craving it ever since.  It is so high in vitamin C and is better than tomatoes for lycopene!  The fruit leather makes a wonderful treat to pull out of the fridge in the dead of winter.

In case you want to go forage your own Autumn Olives, here are a few identifying markers to help.  The berries are small, about the length of a cotton swab tip.  They are slightly speckled.  The bushes are usually about 8 feet tall, so slightly taller than your arm’s reach.  The leaves are oblong and smooth, with the underside of the leaf a silver colour (see photo below).

Happy Foraging!  

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15 comments

  1. This is a great post, thank you! And very timely for me. We have LOTS of autumn olive bushes here in SW Michigan planted by the DNR for the wild animals at the Todd Farm and other Allegan Forest open area. I did not realize that we humans could eat them too. I have a new food dryer this year and have been wanting to try my hand at a fruit leather. This may be just the things for us to try. I see that you added apples for a bit of sweetness…is there an actual recipe…or did you just go with your gut? Guess I’d better get out my Excalibur Dehydration guide! Thanks for this important information. One additional Question: How do you know when the berries are ripe enough to pick? Donna at the Small House Homestead http://smallhouseunderabigskyhomestead.wordpress.com

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    1. Glad you found this post useful Donna! We also have an excalibur 9 tray – its the best investment! Hopefully you have the silicone sheets for leather drying. We didnt follow a recipe, just used what we had (about half a bushel of autumn olives and likewise for foraged apples). The apples didnt add a lot of sweetness, but took a bit of the sour edge off. If you want it sweeter, try adding a bit of honey. We have what we call a ‘super-blender (a Waring Pro, which is similar to a vitamix, but with a stainless top rather than polycarbonate), it blended the seeds nicely, so there was no need to strain. We did try a strained version last year, but we all liked the texture of the ‘seeds in’ version the best. When pouring it out onto trays, try to make it a bit thicker around the edges, as they dry faster,making your final product more consistent. Just be sure to keep dehydrated fruits and leathers in the fridge or freezer. We lost some items to molds and moths because we hadn’t quite gotten all the moisture out. As far as settings, we start it at 145 degrees for 45 minutes to heat up the unit. After that we turn it down to 115 and leave it overnight. We run it so low because anything under 118 degrees maintains the food as a raw/living food (much better for retaining enzymes and more nutritional value). Usually its done by morning, but if it still feels tacky, we leave it in until mid-morning and check again. Thanks for re-blogging!

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  2. Thank you! We’re designing our food forests, and I have these lists of perennial foods that are mostly totally unknown to me. So finding such a useful description and photo of one of them is a great gift. (Even though we won’t plant because it’s invasive, and are fortunate not to have seen it on our place in northeast Texas.)

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      1. Well, maybe so. It didn’t ask for my email address, but it says I am following. Maybe my email was captured automatically. I’ll find out when you post. Thank you!

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