The fruit of the autumn olive
[The autumn olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, is a beautiful shrub or small tree with fragrant flowers in the spring and abundant fruit in the fall. No relation to the true olive, it’s native to eastern Asia. Since it can fix atmospheric nitrogen it can grow where little else will, and highway departments and land managers all over the United States gladly planted it along roadsides and “waste ground” to beautify the landscape, prevent erosion, provide windbreaks and feed wild birds. It does all of these things but that last is the problem: birds have spread it far beyond its intended space and it’s now an invasive pest, crowding out native plants wherever it grows. Unlike most of the growing army of invasive alien species, autumn olive has delicious fruit that look like ¼-inch red berries but are actually drupes, each with a single small pit. They’re readily recognizable because the berries are covered with tiny gold or silver speckles. Besides tasting good, they’re a particularly rich source of the antioxidant lycopene (17 times as much as tomatoes).]
makes some tasty treats, the simplest of which is fruit leather. I loved one blogger’s comment “…also tried a fruit leather, and it looks as good as the real thing, by which I mean Fruit Roll Ups, a fake thing.”

  • 4 cups
    [In extremis, you can use as little as 2 cups puree, but the result will be thinner and more brittle.]
    of autumn olive puree.

  • Sugar, honey or other sweetener
    [Edible wild plants maven Russ Cohen recommends harvesting only the very sweetest fruit so no sweetener is needed. I disagree, since (a) that preferentially spares the less-sweet fruit to reproduce and (b) it takes very little sweetener even with very tart fruit. Use the tart fruit for baking and eat the sweet ones fresh.]
    , to taste
    [A couple tablespoons sugar is a good start; note that dehydration intensifies the sweetness, so don’t overdo it.]

  1. [Optional] Preheat the puree if it came from the fridge or freezer.

  2. Mix sweetener into puree.

  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment and pour the puree into it.

  4. Place it into the oven at the lowest temperature available (mine is 170°F). If your oven supports convection, use that.

  5. Wait many hours (typically overnight), checking every so often. As Leslie says, “You can tell if it is ready by peeling it from the parchment and by touching it in the center of the tray. When it is done it will be tacky but not sticky. Also when it has cooled it is more likely to be less sticky than when you test it when it is warm.”

When it’s done, you’ll have a baking-sheet-sized rubbery rectangle. My preferred way to store it is to peel it off the parchment (which tends to be brittle and crumbly by this time), roll it up in wax paper, seal it in a plastic bag, and store it in the fridge.


This recipe for autumn olive fruit leather is adapted from the original by “Leslie” at