Autumn olive - Eleagnus umbellata
Autumn-olive is not Russian olive. There endeth the lesson.
At least there ended mine, a few years ago. Autumn-olive is Elaeagnus umbellata. And the autumn-olive (why the hyphen? No clue) fruit is perfectly round and red with silver flecks (occasionally yellow with silver flecks). It is beginning to ripen now, in these parts.
Russian olive - Eleagnus angustifolia
Photo: Great Swamp Watershed Association, NJ
Russian olive is Elaeagnus angustifolia, above. Called oleaster in Europe.
Many people confuse the two. I used to, too. But Russian olive an elongated oval, and greeny-yellow. Mealy rather than juicy. The fruit of both are technically drupes, as the pit is on the inside, surrounded by flesh. They are mini stone fruit - like peaches, apricots, cherries. Berries have the seeds arranged on the outside.
Both are edible. Both are highly invasive. Neither is related to the olives we brine and cure in oil. That is Olea europea.
But the autumn-olive is dee-licious. If you like red currants.
Read more about autumn-olives and how to eat them in my article for Edible Manhattan. In print now or online.
Oh - and this didn't make it into the Edible piece because my editor didn't want to bore the pants off readers, BUT. There is an Elaeagnus from these American shores: Elaeagnus commutata, or silverberry. So there. I have never tasted it. Most reports say that is is dryish and mealy.