Tracking in the Mud

All things children and nature

Making Fruit Leather from Wild-Harvested Autumn Olives October 21, 2010

Filed under: Autumn,Getting Outside with Kids,Seasons,Wild Edibles — Sandy Beverly @ 10:27 pm
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My husband tells me I’m getting a little obsessed with gathering wild edibles.  But here’s a success story: Max and I made fruit leather from berries we discovered along a local bike path.

The tree is Autumn Olive, related to the Russian Olive and not a “true” olive.  In the fall, it sports tart red berries with silvery spots.  The lone tree caught my eye at 12 miles an hour, and even though I’ve never seen this species before, my brain said “Autumn Olive.”  See, oh doubting husband, those hours spent poring over wild edible books have not been wasted!

Once I confirmed that the tree was indeed an Autumn Olive, Max and I returned with shopping bag and pruners.  In no time at all, we’d filled the bag with small branches.  (Next time, I won’t clip the branches, I’ll strip the berries straight from the tree.  But this plant is considered invasive in many places, no harm done by slowing its growth a little.)

That evening, we were ready to dig in.  Had a fabulous time sitting on the floor and stripping the berries into a large bowl.  The simple beauty of the round crimson berries made me smile, and we had a misplaced sense of pride about the quantity we had gathered.

We washed ‘em, cooked ‘em, ran ‘em thru a food mill. (Hey, nobody said processing wild fruit is easy!  That’s why those pioneer women could birth their babies while traveling the Oregon Trail.  That, and because they had to…)  Then we sweetened the runny magenta mush with lots of honey.  One night in the electric food dryer, some kitchen shears (sorry, pioneer women, technology happens), and, viola, a bunch of beautiful if slightly mouth-puckering fruit roll-ups.

Look out, Ma Ingalls.  I’m after your cookbook, and your husband.

Important aside: According to the Wild Berries & Fruit Field Guide, Autumn Olive has no toxic look-alikes.  But, as always, be careful eating wild plants.  Some are quite poisonous.


Neighborhood Nature Notes–September 2010 September 11, 2010

Filed under: Autumn,Neighborhood Nature Notes,Seasons — Sandy Beverly @ 9:46 pm
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This is a log of nature observations for our neighborhood south of West Junior High.  Want to share your observations?  See below.  Or start your own nature notebook at home.  Find earlier Nature Notes by looking under “Categories” to the right.

September 2010

  • Sept 10–Saw a bat on my evening walk.   Guess they are still around and active.
  • Sept 9–A few black walnuts have fallen.  (Smell these fragrant green seeds!  But ones that have cracked open can stain your skin and clothes.  Walnut “husks” make a fine natural brown dye.)
  • Sept 8–A few lone fireflies here and there.  I think these are the ones who haven’t found a mate…
  • Sept 7–Still hearing soft night-time bug sounds, but cicadas seem to be gone.
  • Sept 3–Neighborhood owls have been noisy.  Great horned owls and especially barred owls.

Want to share your observations?  Add a comment or e-mail me ( and I will add to the log.  Send first name, age (if you’d like), observation, and your location in relation to a public school.

Or, start your own nature notebook at home, with your family.  Sometimes hard to keep at it, but lots of fun to look back at previous years to see if events are happening earlier or later.  We got a big kick out of observing our first-of-year bat on the same day two years in a row.