On Sunday, my mom came up to pick some autumn olive berries (elaegnus umbellata). These tart little red berries are found on a shrubby tree that grows with some profusion around here. These shrubs are not native, and reproduce with great readiness, and thus have the reputation of being “invasives.” There are many things, native or not, that I personally consider more invasive on my land (thistles, poison ivy, wild roses, silver maples) so I kind of give these trees a pass. Wildlife and human life at least can eat these berries.
Little yellow seeds, clear juice, thin skins
The berries are about the size of peas. They are round and spotty and they’re a wonderful rusty red color, contrasting nicely with the dark green of the tops of the leaves of their shrub/tree. The “olive” in their name comes from the leaves’ passing resemblance to the shape and color of that of olive trees…but only the underside of the leaves. The underside leaf color is a lovely light sage green, and, in the wind, the tree’s leaves do change color. The berries have a small yellow seed inside. It’s entirely edible, lending a bit of crunch to the berry, and a bit of a tang. They start tart, end sweet. The closest thing I can say they taste like is perhaps unripe gooseberries.
Mom is a bit of an Atkins nut. I suppose every family has a member who has fallen into a cult at one point of their lives. You still love them. My point of mentioning this is that the freezer jam she makes with these berries and that godawful poison Splenda is her favorite jam, so when I told her the berries were ripening, she completely juggled her schedule to come up and pick. And pick she did. She picked about six cups of the berries for me, too.
I have made jam with the berries, too, and not with Splenda (shudder). I like it, but not as much as other jams I make, so this year I decided to make a fruit chutney with them. Chutneys are so versatile, and their sweet/tart/salty/spicy mixture is such a great foil for the blandness of cheese and crackers or the predictability of all those chickens in our freezer (30+, plus 6 birds still running around). Chutneys are also a great way to use up all the stuff still coming out of the garden (orange and green tomatoes, sour apples, carrots, celery, hot and sweet peppers) or still taking up valuable space in that freezer from last year (cranberries). So I got creative last night and made some berry chutney.
RECIPE IN COMMENTS NOW!