About the Autumn Berry

autumn berries on the tree

A tasty little berry with a sweet 'n tart kick.

Autumn berries are the small red fruit of the autumn olive tree (Elaeagnus umbellata) which has fragrant ivory flowers and silvery-green leaves. The berries are sweet and tart when they ripen in the fall and are packed with vitamins and nutrients including the anti-oxidant, lycopene. Throughout the year, the trees provide shelter and food for wildlife and they have nitrogen-fixing root nodules that help them adapt to poor soil. The berries can be used to make a wide variety of healthy products and contain a single, edible seed.

The tumultuous past of the autumn berry

Autumn berries are revered as a powerful medicine in Asia. Native to the mountains of Eastern Asia, the autumn olive has been cultivated for its positive characteristics, and is still utilized in the diets of Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese in tea, wine, jam, and traditional medicine.

The tree was introduced to North America as an ornamental shrub and later planted widely for wildlife habitat and land restoration. The tree “behaved itself” for quite a while, but then it became “too aggressive” and quickly spread outside of where it was planted. The  tree has been declared invasive. 

Some, like this landowner in Rhode Island, have a love affair with the tree and see only the virtues of the autumn berry. Others, like these cattle ranchers in Virginia, spend thousands each year in a losing battle with the tree.  

We at Autumn Berry Inspired sympathize with both sides and feel that we have a long way to go as a culture to developing healthy relationships with the different plants and animals that we’ve introduced to North America.

Making use of the autumn berry

We feel one powerful approach for us to take will be to realize “we can’t beat it, so let’s eat it.” Nowadays, countless blog writers describe the fun they have picking, cooking, and eating autumn berries. We feel the future of this fruit lies in understanding its useful past and creating a future where we utilize this tasty and nutritious resource.