Out of all the native Appalachian wild fruit Western Maryland Lemonade incorporates into its beverages the Autumn Olive is by far the most intriguing and maybe the most delicious as well. These olive like bushes produce tons of tiny tart berries and once you hit a patch of them growing wild you can spend hours picking them. They are extremely sour and are best consumed once they become overripe early in the fall. There are several varieties of autumn olives including a red and a yellow variety as well. The red berries are more common in Maryland.

What is extremely weird and important about them is that the Autumn Olive is classified as a very invasive plant. In fact, America has been doing all it can since the 1970s to eradicate this species from the environment. Read on...

Autumn Olives, also referred to as autumn berries or Japanese silver berry, are the small fruit of the autumn olive tree (Elaeagnus umbellata), which was imported from Asia to North America as an ornamental tree in the 1830s. Though the berries themselves are small (approximately the size of a red currant), the trees on which they grow are a giant problem. Since the 1970s, when they were declared an invasive species in the U.S., they've been choking out and strangling everything that grows in their path. They've spread their nitrogen-fixing roots all across America as an invasive species, with the exception of a few states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and West Virginia) that only classify them as noxious weeds.

These tiny red jewels are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins A, C, and E, flavonoids and essential fatty acids. But they're even better known for being rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is a major player in fighting many cancers. In fact, autumn berries are 17 times richer in lycopene than an equal serving of tomatoes.

Autumn Olives taste like cranberries or pomegranates with an edible seed crunch in the center. Despite being labeled as a berry they can be much more savory though than a typical sweet, tart berry. This might be due to the fact autumn olives are not in fact a berry at all. Autumn Olives are actually a 'drupe' like apricots, almonds, cherries, coconuts and olives.

They get their name because their silver leaves on a short squat tree resemble Mediterranean olive trees. We call them berries because in terms of the culinary world, they are used much more like berries than olives. They can be eaten fresh, pureed, frozen, made into jam, fermented into wine...just about any way you can imagine. Lemonade anyone?

WESTERN MARYLAND LEMONADE PERSONAL STORY
Autumn Olives are not grown commercially at all. They grow wild everywhere. It's likely you have some growing in your back yard weeds and don't even know it. On one of our foraging trips in September of 2019, Western Maryland Lemonade owner Todd Helmick ran into a patch growing wild in a farmer's corn field. These berries were twice the size as the ones we found growing wild in shale and clay or not optimal conditions because they were obviously growing in a field with good soil and nutrients. These berries were freaking amazing...a combination of soft, juicy, tart, sweet and crunchy (from the edible tiny seed inside). Todd loves to put them on his salads. It just boggles the mind that nobody would bother to grow and propagate the autumn olive for culinary purposes. When we put them in our lemonade the process can be laborious but worth the effort. They need to be emulsified into the lemon juice and then screened to remove the remaining particles of the seeds and skins. This causes a natural reaction where the yellow lemon juice literally becomes bleached to a white color. We call it White Autumn Berry Lemonade sometimes. A really clear white lemonade product...wow, only mother nature can do such a thing naturally. Even better, Western Maryland Lemonade also processes these autumn olives into apple cider come October and December.

Western Maryland Lemonade will sell the frozen berries and ship them from time to time depending on abundance. This is a really unique culinary delight.

 

 

PHOTOS

Autumn Olive red berries still on the branch. The silvery specs are an easy way to distinguish these red berries from many others growing wild.

 

The berries grow in clusters, sometime so abundant that the bush becomes a full sea of red color.

 

There are several varieties of autumn olives, including a yellow variety that tends to be more appealing to some in regards to flavor and taste.

 

A bowl of freshly picked red berries.

 

The tree eerily resembles the Mediterranean olive with a silver hue underneath each oval shaped green leaf.