This shrub can grow to be about 10 feet tall and grows everywhere in New England. Elaeagnus umbellata goes by many names; autumn olive, japanese silverberry, and spreading oleaster, to name a few. It is native to Asia but was planted for wildlife management and has become invasive in our part of the world.
We gather the berries in late September and freeze them for the coming months.
The ripe berries are tart and sweet. They contain carotenoids and in some studies, as much as 17 times more lycopene than tomatoes. The seed is said to contain omega 3 fatty acids.
One thing we like to make with this wild food is fruit leather.
Start by placing 2 cups of berries into a small sauce pot over low to medium heat. When the berries are warm, mash them with a potato masher. Let the sauce cool before placing into a food processor. Add a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey to balance the tartness and blend. The seeds won’t really break down completely, they’re fibrous and make the leather more chewy but I just can’t remove something that contains omega 3 fatty acids. If you don’t want to include the seeds, strain them out prior to placing the sauce in the food processor.
Pour this mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If it’s a warm sunny day, let the leather dry outside. If not, place the cookie sheet in the oven on the lowest setting, mine is 170F. I prop the door open a little with a wooden spoon. This will ensure it doesn’t cook the sauce, just dries it out. Mine took about 2 hours to dry.
Cut into strips and store in the refrigerator.