Conservationists are in a tizzy about Autumn Olive. This native of Asia was introduced here by, of all people, the state government, which 30 years ago was offering bundles of it practically free of charge. Excellent for fixing nitrogen in poor soil and prodigious at producing berries that birds love, Autumn Olive was once considered a conservationist’s delight.
Oops. Lacking natural enemies and other controls, Autumn Olive took off, and is now pushing out natives as it covers countless acres. The berries that were supposed to feed birds also often ferment, and wind up getting them drunk.
But wait! Scientists have also discovered that those berries contain up to 17 times the lycopene found in tomatoes. The anti-oxidant is said to fight cancer and heart disease. “This berry has more lycopene than any other food that we know of in the world,” said one farmer, who now harvests and sells the berries for jams and jellies. The berries also contain phytoene, beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and lutein – all good for your health.
So instead of mowing down Autumn Olives, maybe we should be reining them in and eating them.