A new member of the 'superfood' family has hit the Arizona marketplace and its promotors hope to take our tastebuds by storm. The Pichuberry is a fruit that at first looks like a ground cherry or what some may call a gooseberry, but do not be mistaken, for this berry is being billed as a superfood and its boosters claim it's drastically different from its other physalis cousins (like the tomatillo, too). Phoenix-based Pichuberry Company is teaming with Mojo Tree Farms to grow and popularize this little golden fruit and teach North Americans what the Andean people have known for so long.
Known as aguaymanto or Incan Berry in Peru, the Pichuberry (named for us here in AZ to trigger thoughts of the berry's heritage: like Machu Picchu) is a plant that grew along the Inca trails throughout the mountainous Andean terrain. These golden berries are a sweet, tart, and interesting "new" fruit to try.
According to Manuel Villacorta, a registered dietician and representative for the Pichuberry Company, this fruit has phytochemicals that can prevent cancer by inhibiting tumor growth, is anti-inflammatory, lowers bad cholesterol, and is low glycemic. And despite the fact that Hawaii has the ideal climate in the states for growing this new superfruit, the company is working to popularize the fruit here by growing it in greenhouses.
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Not to rain on the Pichuberry parade, but "superfood" claims should always be taken with a grain of salt. According to a dietitian not representing the company, Terri Taylor of the Virginia G. Piper Cancer center, "all plant foods have natural compounds called phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, disease-protective properties," though these benefits vary depending on the plant. So this tells us that eating fruits and veggies is generally a good idea, and while the Pichuberry may be especially nutritious in some aspects, we cannot be sure what levels we need to consume them at to truly reap the benefits the company boasts. This berry may not be quite the ancient Andean cure-all it claims, but it can be a healthful addition to a diet that incorporates many plant-based and unprocessed foods.
You can sample the berries and decide their "super" status for yourself at the Mojo Tree stand at either the Scottsdale Old Town Market or the Phoenix Downtown Public Market. Who knows, maybe the berries will give us the strength to build the next wonder of the world.
For more nutritional information, recipes, and history, visit pichuberry.com.