Ripe Autumn berries have a tasty and unique, sweet-tart flavor like cranberries and pomegranate arils. Fruit off the tree can be eaten fresh, frozen, dried or turned into an unsweetened seedless puree. Each fruit has one small edible seed that has a light almond taste. Each seed has a soft but fibrous hull that you can chew up and swallow or remove from your mouth.
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE: Autumn Berries have been found to contain protein, vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids and essential fatty acids, and Lycopene, a carotenoid that is a powerful phytonutrient antioxidant.
No, they are different but close relatives. The autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate) and the Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) look similar; however, the fruit of the Russian olive, though edible and sweet, has a dry, flossy texture while the fruit of the autumn olive is plump and juicy. In Persian culture, Russian olive is a symbol of love and called “Senjed.” It is a traditional part of the Iranian New Year table setting.
Yes, autumn olive is considered an invasive species across much of North America. The tree thrives on poor soil, has low seedling mortality rates, and matures in a few years allowing it to outcompete native vegetation. To preserve precious shrinking native ecosystems, we advise everyone to respect and adhere to their local ordinances and not propagate or encourage the spread of Autumn Olive if it is prohibited.
Unripe Autumn Berries will be extremely sour and astringent, making your mouth feel dry and fuzzy. The fruit turns red before totally ripe, so be sure to sample the fruit of each individual tree before harvesting. Luckily, the fruits tend to ripen all at the same time, so if a few berries taste good, you can feel confident all of them on that tree will, too. However, different wild trees may ripen days or weeks apart from each other which allows for an extended harvest window. In our region (Central Illinois) the trees tend to ripen from August through November. I hear from people further south in Tennessee and Kentucky that their fruit is ripe and finished by July sometimes.
It is commonly said that the fruit is sweeter after the first frost and people sometimes feel they must wait that long before they harvest. The problem is by then the fruit has often either fallen from wind and ripeness or been consumed by birds. Certainly, the densely clustered fruit we love to find will have been reduced to a few stray berries, making the harvest inefficient and giving a poor yield. Often there is a “sweet spot” before the frosts when the sweetness has climbed and the astringency has dropped to a satisfactory point. To catch that “sweet spot” it is ideal to visit and sample your Autumn Olive trees daily or weekly during your region’s harvest window.
No, not at all. The fruit, stem, branch, leaf, and wood are non-toxic. So, unlike elderberry, there is no need to destem your fruit 100%, especially if you are going to cook and process it. Make sure you can properly identify the tree first, though!
The unlobed leaves are silver green on top and powdery silver on the bottom. The berries are textured with gold speckles. Look at a lot of pictures and ask an expert before eating anything unknown, especially berries.
The unlobed leaves are silver green on top and powdery silver on the bottom. The berries are textured with gold speckles. Look at a lot of pictures and ask an expert before eating anything unknown, especially berries.

There are many approaches depending on the scale of your harvest, but this is a good
place to start:

FIRST, follow the Foraging Guidelines. Use proper protective equipment. Be aware of your surroundings. THE FOLLOWING DESCRIPTION IS NOT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. Autumn Berry Inspired, LLC is not responsible for any injury or property damage related to anyone’s personal efforts to harvest. Forage, process, and consume Autumn Olive at your own risk.

  • Harvest: Shake the branches onto a tarp. Place a tarp under a fruit-heavy branch and shake or strike the woody branch with a stick. Alternatively, cut a fruit-heavy branch with loppers or a saw, and hold the branch over a tarp while striking it with a stick. If the berries are ripe, they will easily pop off the branch. If the tree is not ready, the unripe fruit will cling to the branch and you should not bother with it. Let that tree continue to ripen and come back another day. Lift the tarp and funnel the fruit into wide totes with bag liners. Remove the bulk of leaves and sticks in the tote, but no need to be meticulous. It will be easier to remove leaves in the “Wash” step.
  • Wash: Use a large sink, ideally a three-basin sink. Use colanders and work the fruit from one basin to the next, using the first two basins for floating out debris, and the last basin to perform a kill-step using a food-safe sanitizer. The good fruit will sink in the colander and bad fruit and debris will float. Skim and dispose of anything that floats. Replace water as needed.
  • Freeze: Let the fruit in the colander drain, then weigh out 5 pounds or less to pour
    into a one-gallon freezer bag. Zip closed. Place the bags in a freezer with room around
    each bag for fruit to freeze quicker.
  • Cook: Put thawed or frozen fruit in a pan with just enough water to cover the bottom
    of the pan. This is a good time to add sugar if desired. Simmer and stir until the red
    fruit comes off the yellow seeds. Preferably, put fruit with some water in a pressure
    cooker and run through a cycle.
  • Immersion blend: (not necessary but helpful) Use an immersion blender on its low
    setting to briefly pulse the soupy cooked fruit to separate fruit from seeds. If you blend
    too high or too long you will break up the seeds and release the fibers and oily seed
    kernels into the puree.
  • Strain: There are several possibilities: Smash the cooked fruit with spoons through a
    colander. Use a china cap, chinois, or other strainer. Any instrument used to strain
    tomatoes may work. You should now have a cooked, seedless puree that can be made
    into what you like. To make a juice, squeeze the puree through a tight mesh bag or
    cheese cloth or press with a cider or wine press.
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