Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 10, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: New crops that have fruit with high nutritional value are being sought to fill market niches and to provide alternative crops for small farm operations. Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is a prolific producer of edible fruit but it is not grown for fruit production in the U.S. Fruit samples were collected and analyzed for their content of phytonutrients. The fresh fruit were found to contain very high levels lycopene and significant levels of other carotenoids. The lycopene content was up to 17 times that found in tomato, the major source of lycopene in the diet. Lycopene is known to be an antioxidant and some research has reported it to have preventive action for chronic diseases including certain cancers. This information is of use to other plant scientists, human nutritionists and others interested in the effects of food on human health.
Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.) has edible red fruit that was found to not contain anthocyanins in a preliminary study. An analysis of the pigment in fruit of five cultivars and six unnamed naturalized plants showed that they contained lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, phytofluene and phytoene. The lycopene content per 100 g ranged from 15.09 to 53.96 mg in fresh fruit from the naturalized plants and from 17.87 to 48.33 mg in the four cultivars with red-pigmented fruit. A cultivar with yellow fruit had only 0.82 mg/100 g fresh weight of fruit. In contrast, fresh tomato fruit, the major dietary source of lycopene, has a lycopene content per 100 g of 0.88 to 4.20 mg. This newly identified source of lycopene may provide an alternative to tomato as a dietary source of lycopene and related carotenoids.