Incan Goldenberries, the Latest Superfood
Acai, step aside! Incan goldenberries are beginning to emerge as the latest berry superfood
If you've never heard of Incan goldenberries, don't be too surprised. Although casual gardeners and commercial farmers have grown them for many decades in Australia, Hawaii, and South Africa, news of their value and all-around tastiness is just now starting to reach mainland America.
The scientific name for this South American native is Physalis peruviana. The tomatillo and groundcherry belong to the same genus, while the tomato is a slightly more distant relative. Ironically, like all these species, goldenberries are true berries... whereas most of the things we call "berries" aren't.
A Quick Description
Basically, goldenberries look like marble-sized tomatoes encased in an inedible husk, very like little golden tomatillos. Flavorwise, they're tart and "deliciously bittersweet," according to one source. You can use them in jams, jellies, cakes, compotes, etc., and even dry them as substitutes for raisins.
Like other so-called "natural superfoods," goldenberries (a.k.a. Inca berries, uvilla, capuli, and aguaymanto) have a high nutritional value. They're packed with flavonoids and other antioxidants, not to mention phosphorous, B-complex vitamins, Vitamins A and C, and protein.
Native South Americans used goldenberries to treat diabetes, heart disease, cancer, leukemia, asthma, skin infections, and urinary tract infections. Europeans and Africans used them to treat tuberculosis and malaria, and they may help lower blood pressure.
Growing Your Own Goldenberries
Growing goldenberries is about as simple as growing tomatoes -- as long as you live in a warm, frost-free environment. They need both well-drained soil and plenty of water. Unlike many berries, they're annual, just like their cousins the groundcherries and tomatoes. It's easiest to grow them directly from seed.
The seeds themselves are tiny, so it's a good idea to mix them with ashes when you plant them, especially if you're going for a large number of berries. They grow into plants 1-2 feet high that look very similar to tomato plants; the blooms are yellow with a dark, five-lobed central marking.
You can eat goldenberries as they ripen, either raw or in recipes, or dry them for later consumption. They also have a high pectin content, making them ideal for jams and jellies.
A Few Cautions
During the growing process, it's a good guideline to treat goldenberry plants just like tomatoes; and as with tomatoes, you should avoid eating any other parts of the plant, because they can be toxic. Also, keep an eye out for fruit moths, stem borers, leaf borers, and beetles, as well as powdery mildew and root rot.
If you'll keep these precautions in mind, and water your plants consistently, you can be enjoying tasty Inca goldenberries by the end of the summer!