Autumn Olive Fruit Leather Recipe

Autumn Olive Introduction
Autumn Olive (elaeagnus umbellata) is an invasive shrub that was introduced to the United States in the 1930s. By the 1950s it was promoted as a great food source for the wildlife and people of the Central and Eastern U.S. but it’s hearty nature and pervasiveness was underestimated. Autumn Olive’s abundant fruit production, ability to propagate in many soil types, and avian seed dispersal allowed the plant to grow so densely that is shaded out native species. Read our article focusing on autumn olive for more information.

Health Benefits of Autumn Olive
Interestingly, Autumn Olive fruit has a high fatty acid content, which is not common in fruits. Autumn Olive berries are loaded with vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, C and E. They also boast antioxidants called flavanoids, and natural sugars and proteins.

Eating Autumn Olive
The only part of Autumn Olive known to be edible is the berries that ripen and turn from tan to red in fall. If you look closely you’ll note that the leaves and fruit are covered in tiny silver dots. The ripe berries are very tart and sweet. They are best used for baking recipes with fruity fillings, like pies. They also make excellent preserves, like fruit leather and jam.

8-10 cups autumn olive berries(harvested in the fall when the berries are red)
4-8 oz water
Sweetener (honey, agave nectar, sugar, stevia, etc.)

1. Place large pot on stove. Add berries and water.
2. Heat pot over high heat.
3. Stir and mash berries until liquid comes to simmer, about 3 minutes.
4. Reduce heat low and simmer until most berries have burst, about 10 minutes.
5. Use wooden spoon to push thickened berry mixture through sieve into large bowl. Or use food mill to remove seeds and stems.
6. Add sweetener to taste, if you prefer.

If using dehydrator:
1. Lightly coat 2 fruit roll sheets or parchment paper with vegetable oil.
2. Thinly spread berry mixture over sheets and place in dehydrator tray.
3. Set dehydrator to 135-140 degrees F and dry for 10 hours, or until fruit is no longer sticky.

If using oven:
1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Spread berry mixture over sheets and place in oven.
3. If possible, set oven to 135-140 degrees F and dry for 10 hours, or until fruit is no longer sticky.
4. If lowest setting is higher than 135-140 degrees F, set to lowest setting and dry until fruit is no longer sticky.

To finish Fruit Leather:
1. Remove fruit leather and cut into strips with knife or pizza roller.
2. Roll up fruit leather and store in an air tight container. Store in freezer if fruit leather is still tacky.
3. Enjoy.

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The Linden Tree
The American Linden Tree (Tilia americana), is a medium to large tree native to New England. Also known as the Basswood Tree, other trees in the genus include the European Little and Large leaf species, and the Asian Japanese and Chinese Lime Tree species. Although not closely related to actual Lime Trees in the Citrus genus, Linden Trees are often called Lime Trees outside the U.S. See our article focusing on the linden tree for more information.

Linden Tree, Tilia cordata, Small leaved Linden leaves and flower bunches
Tilia cordata, Small leaved Linden leaves and flower bunches (Photo By: N p holmes / Wikimedia Commons)

Linden Health Benefits
Linden flowers, and leaves most likely, contain glycosides and antioxidants called flavonoids. Cultures have used the leaves, flowers, wood, and bark of the Linden Tree for medicinal purposes for centuries. Teas and tinctures made from Linden are commonly used to help with cold and flu symptoms, cough and soar throats. It has a generally calming effect, reduces sleeplessness and helps ease anxiety. Linden tea properties are believed to relieve indigestion, upset stomach, gas, bloating, nausea and vomiting. More medicinal uses include treating inflammation, allergies, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, excessive sweating and tense muscles.

Linden Cautions
Contact rashes from Linden tea are very rare. A slight narcotic effect might be felt if the flowers used to make the tea are too old.

Linden Flower
Linden trees boast distinctive heart-shaped leaves that are edible all spring, summer and fall. Linden flowers are light yellow, fragrant and delicate, and are a very popular flower for honey bees. The leaves can be eaten raw and make a great lettuce substitute in salads or sandwiches. Linden flowers are commonly made into a tea. Linden tea has a strong sweet and floral taste and can be consumed hot or cold. You can combine linden flower with other herbs like elderflower and spearmint to enhance the flavor.

2-4 tablespoons dried linden flowers
8 oz water

1. Add water to small pot and heat over medium heat to boil.
2. Add leaves to tea cup or mug.
3. Remove pot from heat and let sit for 1-2 minutes.
4. Pour hot, but not boiling water over leaves or tea bag.
5. Let steep for 3-15 minutes.
6. Strain loose leaves from tea.
7. Enjoy.

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Staghorn Sumac Tea

The Staghorn Sumac Tree
Wild sumac is a shrub or small tree native to North America. Common to much of Michigan, the Great Lakes region and New England, Staghorn Sumac (rhus typhina) is easily identified by its fuzzy compound leaves and cone-shaped cluster of red berries. See our article on Staghorn sumac for more information.

Rhus typhina, Staghorn Sumac fruit cluster
Rhus typhina, Staghorn Sumac fruit cluster (Photo By: Rasbak / Wikimedia Commons)

Staghorn Sumac Health Benefits
Sumac is an ancient medicinal plant with antioxidant properties, and significant levels of Vitamin C. Native Americans used Sumac to treat colds, sore throats, fever, infections, diarrhea, dysentery and scurvy. Sumac has also been used to treat asthma and cold sores. It also lowers blood sugar, as it has hypoglycemic properties and can aid in diabetes management. Ground berries mixed with clay created a salve used on open wounds, and Sumac berries are also used in smokers by beekeepers.

Staghorn Sumac Cautions
People who have very sensitive skin or severe allergies may have an allergic reaction to Staghorn Sumac. Other plants in this family, including mangoes and cashews, can also cause irritations and inflammation. There is a similar looking plant that is infamous as a skin irritant called poison sumac, It will give most people the same type of rash as poison ivy. The leaves look similar but poison sumac has green or white berries that hang down in bunches not red berries that go upward in a pyramidal cluster. Another minor concern for some people is that small grubs can also take up residence inside of the berry clusters of staghorn sumac.

The Staghorn Sumac Fruit
Despite these berries having a fuzzy look and feel, the Sumac fruit cluster is technically edible. But it is only really enjoyable when prepared properly. Sumac is used to make a drink called Indian Lemonade, referring to indigenous or Native Americans. The fruit ripens and becomes a maroon color from late summer to early fall. Once ripe and ready for consumption, use berries to add flavor to pies, or steep in cold or room temperature water. Avoid hot and boiling water to prevent bringing out the tannins and developing a bitter taste.

3-6 sumac berry clusters
8-12 cups cold water
Sweetener (honey, agave nectar, sugar, stevia, etc.)

1. Place berry clusters in plastic sandwich bag and crush slightly, if you prefer.
2. Add berries to pitcher.
3. Add water to berries and soak 8-16 hours.
4. Pour liquid into large bowl through coffee filter or layered cheese cloth to remove solids(including tiny hairs and pieces of stem).
5. Rinse pitcher and add strained tea back to pitcher.
6. Add sweetener of choice to taste and stir.
7. Enjoy.