Saturday, June 13, 2015

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Golden Berries

     The first thing to know about golden berries is that they have more names than a 1970’s-1980’s European zombie movie.  Here’s some of their alternate names:  Aztec berry, Inca berry, Cape gooseberry, African ground cherry, Peruvian ground cherry, Peruvian cherry, giant ground cherry, and my favorite—amour en cage (French for “love in a cage,” which presumably is also a cliché S&M movie title).  Or, evidently in the U.K. folks stay stiffly clinical, and refer to it as physalis, after its scientific name Physalis peruviana.  As some of their names indicate, golden berries originate from South America.  But they’ve been introduced worldwide over the past several hundred years.  Now they’re grown in the U.K., South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Thailand, and Turkey, among others.
     The French “love in a cage” moniker comes from the fruit’s structure.  Each berry is enclosed within a papery, wrapperlike hood called a calyx.  The fruit itself is usually yellow or orange, and they are typically the size of a large marble.  The “cherry” part of many of the names is a misnomer, as they’re not related.  Actually they are close cousins of the tomatillo.  Traditionally they’re eaten in fruit salads, or as dessert garnishes.  Golden berries are also dried and made into their version of raisins.  Perhaps in Paris that form is known as, “the love in a cage whom you’ve forgotten to feed or water for weeks on end.”
     I found mine in the Stop & Shop in central Jersey, the same place I located the Indian snacks from last week’s post.  They were, as advertised, very sweet and tart, with an unusual, distinctive taste for a berry.  I enjoyed them, and would have them again.  However, with one caveat.  I don’t know if this was Stop & Shop’s fault or what, but at least 60-70% of the individual fruits were inedible—most were dried out, blackened husks, and some were literally sporting penicillin-like colonies.  I think the calyx might be the cause for this, as you couldn’t see the individual berries through their covering.  Maybe the calyxes help keep them fresh, but in this case the batch I had was clearly way too old.  But, as I said, assuming that they’re ripe the berries themselves are very tasty.
     Nutritionally golden berries are a good choice, too.  They have less sugar than many similar sized berries, and have a decent amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, beta carotene, and antioxidants.  The alternative medicine crowd is big on them as well.  They claim the berries are effective against jaundice, help regulate blood sugar and keep your kidneys and liver healthy.  But, as always, these claims haven’t been scientifically proven to date.  Finally, they’re also touted as being superfoods—see May 1, 2014 post for more discussion on that issue.

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