Why you should make eating physalis or golden berries part of your diet? They may sound like a fruit made up by Roald Dahl, but trust us – they’re a real thing and actually pretty great with a host of health benefits to boot.

The delicate orange berry is known by many names, including Peruvian groundcherry and Cape gooseberry. The French actually refer to it as ‘amour en cage’ which means ‘love in a cage’ – a rather romantic way to describe the brown husk you find the berries in.

Here’s everything you need to know about the burnished fruits – from what they taste like, to how you can cook with them.

What do physalis look and taste like?

Ripe physalis on a grey wooden table

This is very much a tropical summer fruit, and the taste reflects that. It’s sweet with a citrus flavour, and there’s something of an acidic aftertaste which makes it ideal for both sweet and savoury dishes.

Physalis is actually related to the tomato, and when you slice the berries open you’ll see the resemblance to their cousins, with small edible seeds. They’re native to Brazil, but thrive in multiple warm climates.

Even though the tasty berries have a short season (between April and June in the Americas, and from August until the frost comes in England), you can still buy them from most supermarkets relatively cheaply.

Top 5 health benefits of physalis

They’re a full of vitamins

They’re low in calories and fat, but high in good stuff like fibre, iron, beta-carotene and vitamins C and K.

They’re an antioxidant 

Like blueberries, physalis are bursting with antioxidants which help slow ageing and reduce the incidence of some cancers. A study has shown that golden berries have a very strong positive effect on antioxidant activities.

They have anti-inflammatory properties

Some believe they have immune boosting and anti-inflammatory effects. They contain a chemical called niacin, or vitamin B3, which can increase blood flow to certain parts of the body. They can therefore help joint mobility and reduce joint pain, making it a useful food for people with arthritis.

They can help your eyesight

Another benefit of physalis is that it’s full of vitamin A, which has been shown to maintain and improve your eye health. Rhodopsin is also found in physalis and it helps us see in low light situations. So, if you are struggling with your vision at night, try eating more physalis!

They can help your cognitive skills

Did you know that eating physalis could help you avoid dementia or Alzheimer’s? The abundance of vitamin C in this fruit helps delay the formation of amyloid plaque in the cognitive pathways. Vitamin C can help maintain healthy cognition, focus and memory.

However, Heathline also warns golden berries can be poisonous – but that’s only if you eat them unripe. They’re actually part of the nightshade family, so if you eat them before they’re ready, you may ingest solanine, which could lead to diarrhoea and a pretty unhappy stomach.

How to eat physalis

yogurt in a glass bowl with blueberries and physalis

It’s a fruit, so if you can’t be bothered to cook, you can just eat them as is. They’re perfect in a salad with other summer fruits – think blueberries, pears and apricots for maximum juiciness – or even in a savoury salad with quinoa and kale.

Considering how pretty the little golden spheres are, they’re a very photographic and delicious addition to the top of your morning porridge or smoothie bowl.

jam of physalis and orange on an old wooden table

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can also cook with them. Whip up a tart physalis and kumquat jam or use them as a zingy addition to your favourite sweet treats.

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