Fruit Leather

Autumn Olive,
(Elaeagnus umbellata)While this species, a native of Korea, Japan and China introduced to North America in 1830, is not very popular because of its tendency to take over and crowd out Native Plants, it is a shame we don’t harvest the locally available and plentiful fall fruit. The berry is quite delicious when harvested just before the first frost and resembles the cranberry or the currant. It can be eaten fresh from the shrub, as juice, jam, jelly, sauce and fruit leather. If you do not have the financial or logistical means to eradicate this species, I have experienced first hand a fun thing to do with the Autumn Olive shrubs in our fields, parks and forests!
As mentioned in a prior post, at the tail end of the first persimmon exploration we picked a couple of cups of autumn olive berries. I processed these using the recipe at the bottom of the page when we got home. Check out the fruit roll-ups! They are delicious, and nutritious.

I only processed a small batch here. The plan now is to find several really good local sources for autumn olive berries and do some real pickin’! Stay tuned for announcements of locations and times.
The recipe we followed:
Fruit Leather

1. Put the fruit you have gathered (at least two cups) in a large pot with just enough water to keep the fruit from scorching as you cook it.
2. Bring the fruit and the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and lightly simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the fruit softens and the pulp begins to separate from the seed. Stir the pot occasionally and check to make sure there is enough water and the mixture is not sticking to the pot. You can add a touch of sweetener such as sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar or honey, if desired, though this is not necessary and often depends on the tartness of the berries themselves.
3. Pour the entire contents of the pot through a food mill, to separate the seeds and pulp. (Alternately, push pulp through a fine-mesh strainer with the back of a wooden spoon.)
4. If you have a dehydrator, pour the pulp into the liquid-containing trays and let it run overnight. Or use a glass baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper. Spread the pulp to a 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick layer and dry in the oven at the lowest temperature setting (140 to 170 degrees) for 8 to 12 hours. The fruit leather peels off when ready.
*Adapted from “Wild Plants I have Known and Eaten by Russ Cohen” (Essex County Greenbelt Association, 2004).

To be fair, I must offer the following link for those that wish to eradicate or control this invasive species: Invasive Alien Plant Species of Virginia

2 thoughts on “Fruit Leather

  1. Devin S. Floyd says:

    I scouted out Ivy Creek Natural Area this morning…very sparse autumn olives. The elevation at this location was about 480'. Our collection site the other day was no more than 320'. So, I suspect that in order to find these berries in significant quantities this late in the season, we'll need to search for low elevation sites…maybe Darden Towe?…back to River Park?

  2. Devin S. Floyd says:

    Second scouting trip: Darden Towe park. The Autumn Olive shrubs here are empty!

    Third trip: Riverside Park. Jackpot! We found a very dense grove; three large shrubs and mybe more. This should produce about a gallon of berries….but, we must act fast. The berries are barely clinging to the stems!

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