Golden Berry

Golden berry (Physalis peruviana) it not a true berry.  It’s in the tomato family, and closely related to the ground tomato known as tomatillo.  Tomatoes are nightshades, a large group of plants that also includes potatoes, eggplants, and golden berries.  Called “aguaymanto” in Peru, golden berries look like small yellow tomatoes.  Now golden berries are making their way in to American health food stores as the newest super food.

These beautiful little fruits are native to the Andes of South America where they grow profusely.   They especially like to trail among rows of native corn where little children pick them to supplement family nutrition.  When ripe, the outer shell is discarded and only the bright yellow-orange fruit is eaten.  They taste moderately sweet, with a slight citrusy tang.  Gathered wild, they are eaten fresh and are also made into a preserved commercial jam, but with lots of sugar added.

Though new to the market in the U.S., golden berries have a long history of exportation and use in Europe, the Middle East, and China.  In the 1800’s, they were first brought to Europe and later commercially cultivated in South Africa, where they are called Cape gooseberries, and where they fast became a staple commodity.  It took another hundred years for golden berries to make it to the United States.  Here, they are known as Incan golden berry or Pichuberry, named after Machu Picchu, and marketed as a Peruvian super food.

Golden berries with their high antioxidant value and low sugar content can play a role in low calorie and diabetic diets and products.  Their nutrient value adds benefits to salads, yogurt, and cooked dishes.  Though essential fatty acids only make up 2% of the fruit, the oil content is mostly linoleic acid.  Its low saturated acid and high phytosterol content make it useful for those on cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering diets.  The natural sugar content is mainly sucrose.  It is very low in fructose, and with only 0.5% sucrose, it’s a tasty source of nutrition while on weight loss diets.  Like many Amazonian and Andean plant foods, golden berries are loaded with vitamin C.  There is more vitamin C in this exotic fruit than in pears, pineapples, or plums, and only slightly less than citrus fruits.

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