Uchuvas or Physalis peruviana are known worldwide but originally were indigenous to South America. They have been cultivated in the United Kingdom since the 18th century where they may be called Physalis and they have been grown in South Africa since the start of the 19th century where they are called the Cape Gooseberry.
They are neither cherries or gooseberries but are more closely related to the tomatillo. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae they are distantly related to the tomato, eggplant and other members of the nightshade group.
The berry is much like a small, spherical tomato. It grows in the protective coat – calyx and is approximately one to two centimeters in diameter. It is bright yellow to orange in colour and is sweet when it is ripe. Often fruit purchased in the grocery store is tart. When buying with the calyx intact, look for the golden calyx opposed to the green. The golden colour will have a sweeter fruit.
Due to its slightly tart flavour it is ideal for pies, jams or snacks. It can also be used in salads, fruit salads and juice.
According to a USDA analysis, a 100 gm serving has the following daily equivalents – Vitamin A 5%, Vitamin B1 – 10%, Vitamin B2 – 3%, Vitamin B3 – 19%, Vitamin C – 13%, Iron – 8% and Vitamin C 13%.
Uchuvas are an interesting fruit in that they are high in protein – between 16% to 18 % of its weight and they also contain contain melatonin. They are high in anti-oxidants as well as beta-carotene. As they are high in pectin they can help regulate the digestive track and help to manage cholesterol and blood sugar levels. At times uchuvas have been hailed as a cure-all. They have anti-inflammatory qualities and are a strong antioxidant.
In Europe they were used to help heal renal insufficiency and in Quebec they were utilized to fight fever and as a diuretic to heal hepatitis and rheumatism.
It is important to note, that even though we are listing supposed medicinal properties, do not overuse any fruit. Additionally it is important to consult with your physician and or nutritionist as to how you can integrate them into your diet.