|Elaeagnus umbellata shrub - 10 feet tall|
Not long after we moved onto our place, after the cows had been gone a while, and after we stopped raising sheep, we noticed more and more little shrubs with silver leaves popping up.
|Elaeagnus umbellata flowers - April|
And they grew.
They bloom in the spring and the small white tubular flowers smell like warm spices from far away places. I thought they were enchanting, so we left them.
|Elaeagnus umbellata berries|
UPDATE: Apparently sometimes these have nasty thorns. I had no idea! We have the thornless kind.
And then we found out that they're considered a pest here. Because the birds love them. And eat them. And poop their seeds everwhere. And now we have loads and loads and loads of them.
I did a lot of searching to find out if the berries are edible and indeed they are. They're very acidic and have a large seed. If you taste one right off the tree, you'll get that weird dry taste that you get from green bananas and unripe persimmons.
They're abundant, they're full of vitamin C and they're free, so I set about experimenting to see what kind of jam I could make.
The first thing I learned was that the redder they are, the better they are. Also, it's best to not skimp on the sugar. These babies are tart, I tell you. Treat them like cranberries - be generous with the sweetener.
I tried elaeagnus jam with a touch of lavender and lemon verbena - very nice, but not great. No one would eat it but me. Also, I had used pectin and that jelly was firm.
Really firm. If only my butt were that firm.
Then this year, I tried it with oranges and no pectin and Hello! We have a winner! This jam is good! Everyone likes it.
This is what I did:
Elaeagnus Orange Jam
- Pick about 4 cups of berries. Make sure they're good and red.
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 oranges: Zest and juice.
Wash the berries and put them in a pot with the water. Cook until they're good and soft. While they're hot, pour them into a chinois or strainer and mash the berries to get the juice and pulp out.
Don't let the seeds fall into the juice and pulp. [I don't try to squeeze them all dry. Seeds are often bitter and I don't want that in the jam, so I stop straining when things start getting dry and sticky and most of the juice and pulp is out.]
Discard the seeds and skins. [Chickens like them.] Put the pulp and juice back into the pot and add the sugar, orange zest and orange juice. Cook until it boils hard.
Ladle into jars. Process for canning 10 minutes for pints and jelly jars.