The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Wild Food Recipe: Autumn Olive Fruit Leather at the Equinox September 21, 2016

I can’t get enough of autumn olives. I wrote about them, honoring them, around this time last year and shared my autumn olive jelly recipe. In my area, the sacred time of the equinox is the sacred time to go out and gather–it is just when they start getting really tasty and ready to harvest in large quantity!  This year, I introduced a number of new friends to them, and we gorged ourselves eating handfuls of them for hours.  I wanted to share, today, my favorite recipe for these delightful treats–a fruit leather recipe!

Autumn Olive Close up

Autumn Olive, Close up

So, let’s just start by saying that Autumn Olive is awesome, and it is certainly one of our first responder plants–fixing nitrogen in the soil, bringing health and fertility back to the land, providing nectar and habitat, and perhaps most awesomely, producing bountiful tasty berries that are high in lycopene and delicious.  I know some people crab about it, but that’s not the subject of this post–instead, we are here to celebrate Autumn Olive’s awesomeness with another recipe.

 

A few words of advice on harvesting–different bushes ripen at slightly different times, and may have smaller or larger fruits. They also have slightly different flavors–taste your way around bushes, if you have options, and find the ones that have abundance and excellent flavor. Usually, the harvest window on these is a few weeks, up to a month, if you have access to a lot of bushes. I have more details on harvesting and finding them in my earlier post.

Amazing Autumn Olive in the Equinox Afternoon Sun!

Amazing Autumn Olive in the Equinox Afternoon Sun! Oh beautiful, bountiful one!

Autumn Olive Fruit Leather

For this fruit leather recipe, you want to get at least 8 or so cups of autumn olives (not hard most years).  Look for trees that have extra juicy and abundant berries–if you look around, you will likely find enough. The nice thing is that this recipe has one ingredient (or two, if you want to add some honey) so you don’t really need to measure anything.

Ingredients:

  • Autumn Olives (fresh and rinsed)
  • Small amount of water
  • Honey (if desired; makes sweeter)

Note that this fruit leather recipe works for any fruit–you may have different ways of processing your fruit (removing seeds, pits, etc) but essentially you need cooked (or pureed raw) fruit and optional sweetener.  It really is that easy!

 

Making Your Fruit Leather: Step by Step

Preparing the autumn olives. You are going to start out by “garbling” your autumn olives. This means you want to make sure there aren’t little spiders, or bugs, or something that isn’t autumn olive in with your mix.  Also pull out any leaves, etc, that might have gotten harvested.  As part of the garbling, I like to give them a rinse and save any little bugs who accidentally got harvested.

Autumn olives after harvesting

Autumn olives after harvesting – like little gems waiting to be eaten

Now, add your autumn olives to a pot and start mashing.  You will likely need to add a bit of water (I added about 1/2 a cup for my 8 or so cups of autumn olives) to get a good mash and make sure they don’t burn.  As they cook, they mash easily.  Here’s a photo after about 5 min of cooking.

Cook them and mash them!

Cook and mash!

As you cook and mash, stir frequently to prevent burning.  You’ll see that as they cook, they turn really opaque and creamy.  Eventually, you’ll end up with some autumn olive puree, that will look like this.

Autumn Olive Puree

Autumn Olive Puree – finger lickin’ delicious!

It doesn’t matter if they are 100% mashed–what I have above is fine for the food mill that I own.

At this point, you will want to let it cool a bit and then remove the seeds.  The best way to remove the seeds is with a small food mill. You can find these readily at thrift stores, garage sales, and the like. Here’s mine in action.

Food mill taking out the seeds

Food mill taking out the seeds

The nice thing about cooking is that it kills the seeds, so you don’t have to worry about thousands of autumn olives coming up in your compost pile. After you have processed all the autumn olive (which takes maybe 5-10 min) you can then add any sweetening agents you’d like.  I find that honey and autumn olive go perfectly together.  In this case, I had some amazing early season honey that was actually made from autumn olives and I added this.  Talk about full circle!  Wow!

Early spring autumn olive honey!

Early spring autumn olive honey.  I can’t believe this survived a whole year of me eating it.

I added honey to taste–for my batch, about 4 tablespoons took the edge off the tartness and added delightful sweetness. To incorporate the honey, the mixture should still be warm (or you can warm it up again on the stove, but stir frequently!)

Transfer the mixture to some dehydrator trays.  Sometimes it can stick, which you can address by slightly greasing the trays (although it will come off).  Wax paper doesn’t’ work nearly as well, and if it dries out too much, can get really stuck on there permanently.

Ready to dehydrate!

Ready to dehydrate – don’t spill your trays!

Then, you dehydrate till the water is gone–typically, somewhere around 24 hours depending on your dehydrator.  You could also do this in the oven on the lowest setting with the oven door slightly cracked.

Autumn olive fruit leather is super flavorful and amazing.  I like to take little bits of it out on the trail with me and eat it with nuts, etc.  It stores well for over a year in a simple mason jar (cool, dark place).  I hope you enjoy this recipe–and happy foraging!

 

Wild Food Profile: Black Raspberries + Fruit Leather Recipe July 16, 2013

Black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) are one of my very favorite foods. This year we have a bumper crop–everywhere I go, the black raspberries seem to be growing! I have been harvesting at several spots, including in my own yard. Black raspberries have a very unique flavor–slightly sweet, with a hint of floral undertones, and tart, rich.  So delicious. They grow on canes that get up  to three feet tall (taller if they grow up trees) with tons of thorns.  The stems of the canes are typically either a dark purple (indicating an older vine) or light green. Both kinds of stems have a white powdery layer (which allows you to clearly distinguish them from black berries or other red raspberries.

Closeup of Black Raspberry

Closeup of Black Raspberry

Black raspberries come into season in July in most of the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Mid-Atlantic states.  This year, we are a little later than previous years (usually 4th of July is around when we really start harvesting them).  The season lasts only a few short weeks (and they are followed by blackberries, so you can have fresh berries for quite a while if you know where to pick!).  Generally, if you want them you have to pick them yourself because like most wild foods, they aren’t commercially available.  I have seen them occasionally at the Farmer’s Market, however.  We’ve had a lot of rain and cold spring weather (and a dismal harvest last year) and I think all of these things contributed to the bounty of berries that we have this year.  Here are some of the bushes I have been picking–you can see how they are just loaded with fruit.

 

To find black raspberries, you want to look to the edges, the places where fields meet forests.  They like dappled sunlight.  They won’t fruit if they are too deep in the forest.  The berries will dry up if they are in too much sun.  I’ve found them in both hardwood forests and pine forests–and in my front yard :).  You an identify them year round by looking at the cane stems.

Fruit bushes overflowing!

Fruit bushes overflowing!

Fruit bushes overflowing!

Fruit bushes overflowing!

Black raspberry fruit makes stunning jam, syrup, sauce, fruit leather, dried berries, and so much more.  They freeze ok, but I find that they get too tart and lose their sweetness with freezing, so I prefer other methods of preservation.  I use canning recipes from the Ball Book of Home Preserving, especially, the raspberry jam and sauce.  I’ve also dried some this year, and they are pretty good.

Recent harvest of black raspberry!

Recent harvest of black raspberry!

In addition to the fruit, the leaves make a fine herbal remedy.  Matthew Wood indicates that Raspberry leaf is a mild astringent, good as a tonic for relaxed tissue.  It was used by the native Americans used them for pregnancy, preventing morning sickness, preventing miscarriage, and aiding in healthy births.  Its also used for diarrhea (pg 308- 309, The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Herbs).

 

Black Raspberry has been one of my sacred herbs for quite some time.  Its one of the fruits that I find “welcoming” when I enter new wild areas.  Despite their thorny qualities, which my friend and herbalist Jim McDonald discusses in detail, the plant is a nice one, telling you to be cautious but come closer for some fruit.

 

Here is a recipe that another good friend recently taught me, which is making fruit leather.  Fruit leather can be made with all sorts of berries and they keep a really long time.

 

 

Black Raspberry Fruit Leather

Fruit leather is like a fruit rollup.  You can choose if you want a more crunchy fruit leather (by keeping the whole fruit, including the seeds) or a soft leather (by straining out the seeds).

 

  • 6 cups black raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (or more to taste; you could use sugar but I’m trying to keep my sweetening local if possible)
  • Food dehydrator with plastic inserts and/or parchment paper

 

The recipe is simple:  put your raspberries on the stove on low and mash them up.  As soon as you start to see steam coming off of them, pull them off the heat and add in the honey.  If you want to strain your berries, cook them at least 10 min, then strain, then add honey.  You can add as much honey as you want, but the more you add, the stickier your fruit leather gets.  I found 1/2 cup to about 6 cups berries (unstained) gives just a hint of sweetness and flexibility to the fruit leather.  After honey is added, wait till its cooled down about 5 minutes, then put it in a thin layer on your dehydrator.  Dehydrate about 12-15 hours on the fruit setting till its leathery.  Store in airtight jars (I stored mine in canning jars).  This is a great trail food!

 

Here are photos of the process:

Black Raspberries washed and prepped!

Black Raspberries washed and prepped!

Fruit leather cooking

Fruit leather cooking

Fruit leather before drying!

Fruit leather before drying!

Finished Fruit Leather on Dehydrator (parchment paper)

Finished Fruit Leather on Dehydrator (parchment paper)

Finished fruit leather (the one on the left has no honey and is kinda brittle, the one on the right has honey and is perfect!)

Finished fruit leather (the one on the left has no honey and is kinda brittle, the one on the right has honey and is perfect!)

PS: My posts will probably be sporadic in the next few months.  We have a bumper crop of just about everything I like to eat–black raspberry, blueberry, apple, cherry, etc.  After work each day, I’m rushing out to harvest, harvest, harvest! And then I come home and preserve, preserve, preserve!  But I’ll try to sneak a few blog posts in :).