Autumn Olive Picking

“High-fives for everyone, every day below freezing”

The weather is taking the start of Fall very seriously in northern Indiana.  Autumn has been creeping in slowly, almost unnoticed.  Afternoons are still warm and bright, but backyard campfire smoke sneaks along with couples on an evening walk, and a chill floats through an open bedroom window of a morning.  Last year it wasn’t like this, September and October -prime season for autumn olives– tipped-toed by with a summer that lingered too long.  Thanksgiving was about the first time we noticed fall had rolled around and then it was too late- these red berries were gone.

The first chill morning was about two weeks ago, and the cool weather always excites me- the smell of cold, the promise of a real winter, and snow.  There’s a calming urgency about a first snow, that I can hardly ever wait for, so I pledged to my friends, “High fives for everyone, every day below freezing.”  It hasn’t happened yet, these little celebrations that will hopefully build callus, but we perked up anyway and saw autumn standing there with us.  And remembered the autumn olives this year.

They look like berry-pickers

Two Sundays ago, just after Notre Dame beat the Spartans 20-3, Matt and I headed back out to Potato Creek, one of our favorite spots for edible invasivory.   The home of such tastes as Cossack Asparagus, burdock chips, and mystery snail ceviche.  It was crowded, a sunny day, and we drove slowly through the old reclaimed and restored farmland, plotting our attack.

Autumn olive grows best along roadsides where it can get at the full sun.  It grows to a bushy 20ft tall or so, and I watched for telltale flashes of silver on green- the underside of the leaves shimmer with silver, and in the breeze the leaves beckon as they turn to and fro.  We drove through a veritable tunnel of green and silver.  Parked and with 5-gallon buckets in hand I heard two women with a stroller tell their child, “They look like berry pickers”.  Our mission continued, trees heavy with berries.  The small red berries fell easily into our buckets when ripe.  Small and tart, with some bitter after taste, but good.

Two hours and over 2kg later we had our fill.  Enough for jam.  Enough for wine, and in six months we can drink it.

Autumn olive

***To see what we produced with our collected fruit, check out autumn olive jam!***

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