Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is a deciduous shrub that produces numerous edible fruits (usually red with silver specks) this time of year. Not only are they delicious, they’re highly nutritious as well.
One study revealed that autumn olive fruits contain up to 17 times the lycopene content compared to tomatoes (Fordham et al., 2001). Lycopene (which almost always gets attributed to tomatoes) is a carotenoid pigment and powerful antioxidant that may protect our bodies from free radical damage, premature skin aging, DNA damage, etc.
The same study found that autumn olive fruits contain up to 10 times the beta-cryptoxanthin content compared to oranges and tangerines. Beta-cryptoxanthin is another powerful antioxidant that can be converted to vitamin A in the body.
I spent the morning harvesting several pounds of these fruits near Pittsburgh, and will enjoy their gifts for many weeks to come. Sad to say you won’t find these tasty drupes in the supermarket, though the chase is more fulfilling anyway. Look for them in open pastures, fields, and along the edge of woodlands.