One company is stepping-up against invasive autumn olives, the Invasivore way. By harvesting and selling them as “LycoBerries”, autumn olives may be the first edible invasive you can order. I got in touch with Orin Zelenak, the founder of Lycoberries and we chatted about his idea to bring autumn olive, “From the Wild to You.”
Lycopene + Autumn Olive Berries = Lycoberry
Orin’s approach to marketing autumn olives comes from two directions. First, he notes that the USDA has shown that the autumn olive berry contains 17 times as much lycopene as tomatoes but with a sweet and tart taste. Given evidence that lycopene has substantial health benefits, he feels autumn olive products could make a significant contribution to public health in the US. Second, Orin is betting that building an autumn olive industry begins by creating “win-win” partnerships with stakeholders who see it as a threat, and maximizing harvests while reducing invasive spread.
“building an autumn olive industry begins by creating ‘win-win’ partnerships”
The plant itself is a bush which grows quickly in poor soil, is drought resistant, requires no inputs, fruits heavily and propagates by seed. The Lycoberry strategy is simple: cover the bush with netting for a few months each fall to harvest the crop (aided by shakers like for apples), simultaneously preventing those bushes from spreading fruit. Meanwhile, proceeds would be used to destroy plants outside the targeted harvested areas. Orin is now working with a network of foragers and processors across several states to collect berries in the wild and make “lycoberries” available online as frozen purees and powders suitable for smoothies, yogurt, seltzer, or as a dessert topping.
Harvest of autumn olive could be a “win-win” and two important first steps are clear to Orin moving forward. One is the creation of innovative private / public partnerships dedicated to shaping autumn olive as an agroforestry crop. The other step is the emergence of brands which create market space and demand for autumn olive products. The Lycoberry brand is actively undertaking both.
When Invasivore first heard from Orin, his goal for Fall 2013 was to pick over 30,000 pounds of the fruit. When I talked with him after the harvest for an update it was clear 2013 was a year of research and development for lycoberries, though they still managed 4,000 pounds. Unfortunately, lycoberries aren’t yet available to the public. But Invasivore.org isn’t the public, now is it?.