Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is a small red berry that grows on shrubs from Maine to Alabama. This plant originated in China and was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s for erosion control. About 20% of the berry' fresh weight is in its single, large seed. The berries of Autumn olive are extremely rich in lycopene (30–50 mg/100 g). The berries are astringent, indicating that fruit may be high in phenolic compounds as well as carotenoids. There has been great interest in producing the plants in domesticated plantings, and in using the fruit as a natural source of lycopene.
This study was done to determine the relative contents of lycopene and phenolics among selections and varieties of autumn olive. The lycopene content of six selections and varieties was 30 to 55 mg·g–1. The lycopene content of berries did not increase after 4 days storage at 25 °C followed by 2 days at 5 °C. Autumn olives are high in soluble solids content (11% to 17%), and relatively high in acidity (1.7% to 5.5% citric acid). The astringent flavor of the berries may be due to the high total phenolic content (1700 mg·kg–1 chlorogenic acid equivalents). The berries were found to be high in flavanols and hydroxybenzoic acids (33 rutin and 31 gallic acid mg·kg–1 equivalents), while the seeds were high in hydroxycinnamic acids and extremely high in hydroxybenzoic acids (35 chlorogenic acid and 184 gallic acid mg·kg–1 equivalents).