This plant belongs to the Nightshade family, along with the tomato, aubergine and goji berry. The plant’s white, star-shaped flowers are poisonous – only the fruit itself is edible. The physalis is also known as golden berry or Inca berry. The latter name reveals the South American origin of the berry. Peru (the Latin name of the physalis is Physalis peruviana), Chile and Ecuador are the foremost producers of physalis. The Inca cultivated this plant thousands of years ago.
The physalis is planted in gardens and parks because of the decorative calyx that wraps around the berry, giving it the lantern-like appearance that so endears this plant to garden designers. This distinctive berry also appears in many classical paintings. The berry also retains its attractive appearance and lantern-like calyx after it is picked, making it an ideal decoration for culinary dishes and desserts. However, this sells the fruit short, for it has many other qualities besides.
Physalis has a distinctive flavour – slightly citrus-sour with a characteristic bitter aftertaste. It is a ‘punchy’ fruit. When coated with dark chocolate, physalis is a delicacy and may call itself a Berricoat.
Our physalis are cultivated in fields in ‘the middle of nowhere’, a good hour’s offroading along smooth clay terrain with a 4WD. Physalis can be harvest year-round, with April to July being the high season. The shrubs last around two years and it takes six months before they are full of fruits.
Berrico supplies dried physalis. The physalis has many applications, such as in smoothies, fruit juices and baked goods, and for enriching energy bars and muesli.