Golden Berries: Tomatillo’s Sweeter Relative

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The golden berry is a member of the nightshade family, just like tomatillos, but delivers a bright, tropical punch of flavors. Originating from South America, it’s a fruit that’s been enjoyed by natives there for over 4,000 years!

What is a Golden Berry?

The golden berry (Physalis peruviana) is a member of the nightshade family of flowering plants. While it’s in the same family as the herbal tomatillo, the flavors radically differ. While tomatillos are herbal and savory, the flavors of the golden berry as sweet, tart, and tropical.

Golden berries, aka Cape gooseberry, goldenberry, Inca berry, poha berries, and Peruvian groundcherry, are native to South America in countries like Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. These tropical fruits grow in warmer climates in South Africa as well.

It’s noted for its golden yellow coloring, tropical flavors, and crunchy, nutty seeds. Golden berries are light and fruity, unlike tomatillos (or cherry tomatoes). As they continue to ripen, the flavors shift from tart flavors to a lovely tropical sweetness.

The History of Golden Berries

The golden berry is a fruit that goes by many names, but the one most indicative of its heritage is the Inca berry. Native Incans in the highlands of Chile and Peru cultivated this tropical fruit almost 4,000 years ago. The Incans used these berries in traditional dishes that are still served today.

Outside of South America, where these berries thrive, the golden berry is popping up all over the globe. It’s now found in tropical regions such as South Africa, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, and even parts of the United States. If you live in an area where you can grow tomatoes, you can likely cultivate golden berries!

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Golden berries ready for harvest.

What Does a Golden Berry Taste Like?

As a golden berry continues to ripen, the flavors shifts from sour to sweet. While it has much in common with tomatillos, the flavors are lighter and fruitier. Just before the peak of ripeness, golden berries have a sharp acidity and sour notes with a hint of bitterness.

In its unripe state, the flavors are similar to a savory tomatillo. As it ripens to a beautiful golden color, the flavors become sweet and tropical, like a cross between a pineapple, blueberry, mango, and tomatillo with a hint of vanilla. Golden berries taste best fresh or dried in dishes like salad and fruit salad, but it’s also great in jellies and jams. When cooked, the sour and bitter notes fade into a beautiful sweetness.

How to Tell When a Golden Berry is Ripe

Picking a golden berry at the peak of ripeness is the best way to enjoy this tropical fruit. The good news is that picking out a perfect golden berry is super easy- it’s all about that golden color!

ColorChecking the color is the easiest way to check for ripeness. When unripe, golden berries are green and turn a vibrant shade of yellow as they reach peak ripeness.
FirmnessA ripe golden berry has a dried papery husk and should feel firm with just a little give, similar to a tomato.
BruisingJust like a tomato, look for bruising outside the berry. If it’s overly bruised, it’s just over the peak of ripeness.

Are Golden Berries Tomatoes?

Golden berries are a distant cousin of tomatoes, and just like tomatoes, they are a member of the Solanaceae family. Fruits like tomatoes, bell peppers, tomatillos, and eggplant are also members of this family, but they are all a little different.

Tomatoes and golden berries have a lot in common in terms of textures. When you cut open a golden berry, you are met with similar tomato-like seeds and lovely, juicy flesh. And that is where the similarities end. While tomatoes are savory and acidic, golden berries are sweet, tangy, and fruity. They boast bold tropical flavors like pineapple and mangoes and go great in sweet and savory dishes.

Golden Berries vs. Gooseberries

Golden berries and gooseberries are two completely different fruits. It’s a little confusing since one of the nicknames of golden berries is Cape Gooseberries. So, let’s break down the difference between these two similar-sounding fruits.

Gooseberries are a member of the Grossulariaceae family and grow on shrubs or trees, while golden berries are a member of the Solanaceae family and grow on tomato-like plants. Gooseberries are incredibly tart, with a citrus-like acidity and very little sweetness. Golden berries, on the other hand, are delicately sweet with sharp notes of tropical flavors.

Can I Eat Raw Golden Berries?

One of the best ways to enjoy golden berries is raw. While they are sometimes cooked into jellies and jams, raw fruit is the best way to enjoy this fruit. You can eat them as a nutritional snack or dry them out and eat them like raisins.

They’re also an excellent addition to salads since they lend a sweet kick that goes well with savory ingredients. You can even toss them into a smoothie for a rush of tart flavors and a sharp nutritional boost.

Cooking with Golden Berries

Before you can whip up a jar of amazing golden berry jam, you must know how to prepare them. Don’t worry; it’s quick and easy.

1. Remove the paper husks. Outside a golden berry is a paper husk called a calyx. Peel it away from the fruit and discard it.

2. After you remove the paper husk, gently wash them in cool water, and they are ready to cook!

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Golden Berries’ tart and sweet flavors make them great for jams.

Here are a few great ways to enjoy tasty golden berries:

Baby Cucumber and Golden Berry Salad: This is the ultimate summertime salad. It’s fresh and crispy with a kiss of crunchy cucumbers, savory notes from tomatoes, and a pop of brightness from golden berries. It’s quick, easy, and a nutritional powerhouse.

Goldenberry Pico de Gallo: This fantastic golden berry recipe will take your pico de Gallo to the next level on Taco Tuesday. It incorporates traditional pico ingredients like red onions and tomatoes with a bright tartness from goldenberries.

Goldenberry Jam: This jam will put your strawberry jam to shame! It’s tart and sweet, and delivers subtle tropical notes that are unlike any other jam. Slather it on toast, ice cream, or granola, toss it in a smoothie, or eat it by the spoonful.

How to Store Golden Berries

Golden berries will stay fresh in the refrigerator for five to seven days. Since golden berries are a non-climacteric fruit- they won’t continue to ripen once plucked from the plant. Always make sure that you select golden berries at the peak of freshness.

You have two options if you can’t use your golden berries within seven days. You can freeze them or dry them. To freeze golden berries, place them in a freezer-safe container and date it. Frozen golden berries will stay fresh for up to 12 months. To dry golden berries, place them on a baking sheet, dry them in a food dehydrator at around 135 degrees Fahrenheit, and dehydrate them for 24 hours.

Nutritional Benefits of Golden Berries

Golden berries are hailed as a superfood for many excellent reasons. Each berry delivers a powerful punch of beneficial vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin K, riboflavin, potassium, carbohydrates, thiamine, Vitamin C, niacin, antioxidants, and Vitamin A, to name a few.

The phytosterols found in golden berries are a great source of antioxidants that can help lower cholesterol levels, block the growth of cancer cells, and help with chronic diseases. They are also rich in carotenoids, which can make your cardiovascular system stronger.

Where to Purchase Golden Berries

The good news is that it should be easy to track down golden berries. Many big-box grocery stores with an exotic fruit section often carry golden berries year-round.

You can also buy dried golden berries at an affordable price from websites like Amazon. If you can’t find golden berries at a local grocery store, your next best option is a local farmer’s market or a specialty fruit store.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer with a deep love for food. She loves baking sweet treats and experimenting with different fruits and veggies for her morning smoothies. When she’s not writing, she loves powerlifting, baking, gardening, playing video games, and caring for her cats!

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