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Autumn olives are round or oval in shape and are identified by their pink to vibrant red hues. Their spotted, matte skin houses soft, juicy, opaque pink to red flesh with one inedible seed in the center. Autumn olives are sweet, but can also be quite tart in taste depending on when picked in the season. The autumn olive is a deciduous shrub that can grow as tall as 6 meters in height. The leaves are oval and slightly elongated in shape, with dark green tops and grey to green undersides coated in silver scales. The leaves are found in an alternating pattern and edges of the leaves can be slightly rippled. The stem of the shrub is silver to golden brown with thorns and in the early spring cream to light yellow flowers can be found in clusters on the shrub.
Autumn olives are available late summer through late fall.
Autumn olives, botanically classified as Elaeagnus umbellate, are known as a drupe, which is a fruit with an outer fleshy membrane and one single seed or pit inside. Autumn olives are believed to have been given their name from its similarity in appearance to Mediterranean olive trees even though the fruit is not an olive at all and is more similar to a berry. Autumn olives are known as Japaense silverberry, Spreading oleaster, Umbellata oleaster, Autumn berries, and Autumn elaeagnus.
Autumn olives are high in vitamins A, E, and C and are known for their high content of the antioxidant, lycopene.
Autumn olives can be eaten raw or cooked and pair well in both sweet and savory dishes. They can be boiled, mashed, pureed, frozen, made into jam, made into fruit leather, fermented into wine, or even dried and ground into a powder. When raw, it pairs well with yogurts and ice cream. When cooked, the autumn olive pairs well with pork chops, chilled soups, and use in desserts such as a crumble. Autumn olives can also be used in smoothies and drink recipes. Autumn olives will last for a couple days when stored in a dry and well-ventilated space in the refrigerator.
Autumn olives are used as a key ingredient for health and wellness in Asia. Since it is native to the mountains of Eastern Asia, autumn olives are cultivated for their powerful antioxidants and are found in daily diets in Korea, China, and Japan. Traditional uses of autumn olives include teas, wines, jams, and ground up into powder for medicine.
The autumn olive originated in Asia with records in China, Japan, and Korea. It was brought to the United States in 1830 and used as a solution to wildlife habitat and erosion control. Though it was an excellent solution to those needs, autumn olives spread quickly and overtook many of the natural habitats earning itself the title of an aggressive invasive species. Autumn olives thrive in poor soil, pastures, riverbanks, meadows, open woods, and even roadside. It can be found in Great Britain, Asia, along the eastern coast of the United States to the central United States, and up into Canada.