Energetics of Pichuberry: The Lost Incan Crop

PichuberryPichuberries may look exotic, but they are more commonly known as the Cape Gooseberry. The Pichuberry roots yield from the Andes of Peru and are referred to as the Lost Incan Crop.

Eating one is like unwrapping a present. The pichuberry itself is covered by loose, dry leaves that once opened, reveal a small saffron-colored “berry.”  They are mildly sweet and subtly tart. Their size and texture are similar to that of a grape. It is a unique summer snack for the whole family.

You may be surprised to learn that these are not berries at all! They are actually a cousin of the tomatillo. Pichuberries are fruits of the nightshade family, related to eggplant, cherries, potato, tomato, bell peppers and, of course, the tomatillo. Because they are nightshades, those with certain health conditions should avoid them. Nightshade plants are high in alkaloids so anyone with arthritis or gout must avoid this family of foods. Steaming, boiling, and baking can help reduce the alkaloid levels.

The pichuberry is more than just a delicious snackit is filled with nutritional benefits. It is one of the most abundant sources of vitamin C available among all fruits and plants. This little berry carries as much as 20 times the vitamin C of an orange! Also hidden in its small size is a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamin A, and B vitamins including thiamin, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B-12. Pichuberries also help in reducing sugar levels in the blood, as well as increase production of blood corpuscles in the body.

Nutrition Facts Amount
Serving Size 100 g
Calories 65
Total Fat 0.2 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 50 mg
Total Carbohydrate 14.1 g
Fiber 4.8 g
Protein 1.7 g
Iron 1.2 mg

Pichuberry Salsa


Also check out a recipe for Pico de Pichuberry Salsa! Click here for the recipe.

Looking for a unique way to incorporate Pichuberries into your meals? Try this summer salsa.


1 cup Pichuberries without the cape (half lengthwise)
1 small avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and coarsely chopped.
1 small tomato, coarsely chopped
½ red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
½ green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño chopped, seedless.
½ cup (2 oz) chopped green onions
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Pinch of salt


In a bowl, mix all ingredients and refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

Energetics of the Nightshade Family

Energetics of Eggplant: Not Quite Egg, But Fully Plant
Energetics of Chili Peppers: For the Spice Lovers
Energetics of Tomato
Energetics of Sweet Potato: Not Yams!
Energetics of Bell Peppers: The Colorful Kitchen Staple


Pichuberry: Peru’s Exotic Fruit from Eating Free
Pichuberry General Information from Pichuberry.com
Pico de Pichuberry Salsa from Pichuberry.com



Energetics of Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The great debate, what is a tomato?!  Well, while it is used and consumed as vegetable it is botanically a fruit. Tomatoes have seeds and grows from a flowering plant, therefore it is botanically classified as a fruit. The confusion comes from the fact that in 1887, US tariffs imposed a duty on vegetables, but not fruits.  Then in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nix V. Hedden that tomatoes were to be considered a vegetable based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, meaning that since tomatoes were usually served with dinner and not as a dessert they were a vegetable.



Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato plants originated in the South America Andes in an area in modern day Peru. It was first consumed as food by the Aztecs. Now a days, the main producer of tomatoes is China, followed closely by the US and India. There are literally about 7,500 different types of tomatoes in the world, but today we are going to talk about 5 categories of tomatoes most commonly found at your local market.

Cherry Tomatoes are red, orange or yellow in color, and are bite-sized. These are used mostly in salads or as a garnish.

Slicing Tomatoes

Slicing Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes and Roma/Italian Tomatoes are small, egg-shaped tomatoes that contain less juice than Slicing Tomatoes. Since they contain less juice these types of tomatoes are ideal for cooking, especially tomato sauces.

Slicing Tomatoes are small, round, and juicy.  These are the most commonly found tomato in local markets.  These include the flat beefsteak tomato.

Heirloom Tomatoes actually have no standard definition, but most experts consider them to be varieties that have been passed down for generations of a family and developed to bring out their best characteristics. They can be found in a variety of colors, shapes, and tastes. They are usually a soft tomato with a short shelf life, thus are not as wide distributed.  Most are found in farmer markets, natural food stores and supermarkets with a larger expanse of produce.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes are unripe tomatoes. They contain less nutrients than fully ripe tomatoes.  This is due to the fact that the phytonutrients that result in the tomatoes red coloring have not yet developed.

While tomatoes are available throughout the year, their peak season runs from July through October.

Best Way to Choose and Store

Plum Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes

When selecting tomatoes look for ones that are deeply and evenly colored, and ones that are firm and heavy for their size. They should also be well shaped and have smooth skin.  Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and have a slight sweet smell. Avoid tomatoes with wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots.  Also avoid ones with a puffy appearance, as they tend to have inferior flavor.

Since ripe tomatoes are too fragile to ship, most commercially sold tomatoes are actually picked green and are exposed to ethylene gas (do not fret, this is the gas that fruit and veggies naturally give off that help quicken the ripening process) to ripen them to a red color once they reach their destination.  Since these tomatoes are picked early, their taste is not as flavorful as tomatoes found at farmers markets.

For canned tomatoes, make sure that you purchase tomatoes canned in the United States. Many countries do not have the same strict policies about controlling lead content in their food containers.  The high acid content in tomatoes can lead to corrosion of the container’s metal and result in migration of metals (especially lead) into the food.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

It is best to eat tomatoes the same day you buy them, but if that is not a possibility make sure you store them correctly.  Tomatoes can be stored uncut for up to 10 days.  It is best to keep them at room temperature and to keep them away from direct sunlight. Refrigerating unripe tomatoes can cause them to lose flavor and become spongy. Only put tomatoes in the fridge if they are overripe and you have not had a chance to eat them yet. Try to place them in the butter compartment if possible and eat with 2 days. Take them out of the fridge at least 30 mins before preparing them, so that you can regain the optimal flavor and juiciness.  For tomatoes that are already cut, place it in an airtight container or bag with all the excess air removed.  Sliced tomatoes will only last up to 2 days in the fridge.


tomato-nutritionTomatoes are rich in nutrients that have antioxidant activity.  They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, due to their concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids such as alpa- and beta-carotene. Tomatoes also contain the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.  Other great benefits of tomatoes are their heart healthy potassium, folic acid, dietary fiber, and vitamin B6; bone-building vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorus; sulfite-detoxifying molybdenum; free-radical-scavenging manganese, copper and vitamin E; energy-producing vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin B5, niacin, and iron; muscle-building protein; blood-sugar-regulating chromium; and sleep-promoting tryptophan.





Tomatoes are very cooling in nature. They build yin fluids and relieves dryness and thirst, tonifies the stomach and cleans the liver, purifies the blood and detoxifies the body in general, encourages digestion and used in cases of diminished appetite, indigestion, food retention, anorexia, and constipation. Tomatoes relieve liver heat and accompanying symptoms such as high blood pressure, red eyes, and headache. It can also be used to treat areas of blood stagnation, as both food and an external pack of raw finely sliced pieces. Even though tomatoes are highly acidic, after digestion they alkalizes the blood and thus is useful in reducing the acid blood of rheumatism and gout.  Try to eat vine-ripened tomatoes, as green-picked tomatoes that are later ripened can weaken the kidney-adrenal function.

Caution: Tomato upsets calcium metabolism and should be avoided in cases of arthritis. Large amounts of tomatoes are weakening of everyone.


Roasted Cherry Tomato Chutney on Squash

Tomato RecipeIngredients

  • 1 2 – pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 pints cherry and/or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 8 – ounce container bite-size fresh mozzarella balls, cut up
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a large baking dish. Prick the skin all over with a fork. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degrees oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the minced garlic and salt to taste; stir well to coat. Place tomato mixture in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in oven with the squash for the last 20 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, bring the chicken broth to boiling; add onion. Cook about 3 minutes or just until tender. Remove skillet from heat. Add roasted tomatoes to the skillet with the onion. Using a fork or potato masher, gently press down on tomatoes to pop their skin and release their juice. Add mozzarella, basil and mint to the tomato mixture; toss well.
  4. Using a fork, remove the squash pulp from shell. Top squash with tomato mixture and Parmesan cheese.


Energetics of Tomatillo: Not Your Average Green Tomato

photo credit: reidab via photopin cc

photo credit: reidab via photopin cc

Ever wonder about the differences between tomatoes and tomatillos? While they are very close in taste and nutrients, the tomatillo is actually closer to the cape gooseberry, or pichuberry. This vegetable is a very common ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Although, tomatillos are sometimes called “green tomatoes”, they should not be confused with green, unripe tomatoes. They can be found all year round, but are most common May through October.

The tomatillo is part of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, pichuberries, eggplants, cherries, potatoes, and bell peppers. Like the pichuberry, the tomatillo is covered in an inedible grass husk. Look for fresh and green husks, avoid dry, brown husks. The fruit itself can be one of several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, and even purple. The fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the most commonly used in cooking. Purple and red-ripening tomatillos often have a slight sweetness and are therefore are more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves. Ripe tomatillos will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator.

Tomatillo NutritionTomatillos have a high pectin content, which helps alleviate constipation and diarrhea. They have good amounts of dietary fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins. The tomatillo’s main antioxidants are withanolides, one of which has been found to have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Tomatillos also consist of flavonoid anti-oxidants such as ß-carotene, zea-xanthin and lutein. These compounds, together with vitamin A, are essential for visual health. In addition, Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Tomatillos are also a great source of vitamin C.

Tomatillos are naturally slightly cold, which clears heat and levels the liver, moistens dryness and stops thirst, opens stomach, quickens blood, detoxifies the body, and encourages digestion. It also relieves liver heat. Tomatillos are used to treat mouth sores, wasting thirst, red eyes, dizziness, diminished appetite, anorexia, constipation, and indigestion.

Caution: Tomatillo should be avoided in cases of arthritis, and large amounts are weakening for everyone.


Energetics of Eggplant: Not Quite Egg, But Fully Plant

What a funny name for a ‘vegetable’ (like the tomato, it’s actually a fruit of the nightshade family), especially one that doesn’t look like an egg, in shape or color, so who decided it was an “egg” plant? The first time I brought one home to cook Eggplant Parmesan, I was stumped at the first step. The recipe didn’t say whether to peel the eggplant, slice it, treat it like a gourd, or just how to proceed. How rude. Luckily, Joy of Cooking© came to my rescue.

I thought I was just trying a new recipe, but there are hidden benefits to chowing on this deep purple fruit, or as the French say; ‘aubergine’. Inside that glossy skin are vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants (phytonutrients), such as nasunin; a brain lipid protector and iron chelator (prevents iron accumulation). Chlorogenic acid, which is a potent free-radical scavenger (anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-LDL (the bad cholesterol) as well as anti-viral). Eggplant juice can lower cholesterol, too.

Eggplant (1 cup raw) is full of fiber (yay!) 2g per ½ cup, as well as;
Vitamin B3 .53mg
Vitamin B6 .07mg
Vitamin C 1.80mg
Vitamin K 2.87mg
Copper .07mg
Folate 18.04mcg
Molybdenum 4.10mcg
Magnesium 11.48mg
Manganese .20mg
Potassium 188.6mg
Tryptophan .01g

One variety to take note of; “Black Magic”, contains nearly three times the anti-oxidant phenolics compared to other eggplant types. Phenolics are what make the flesh turn brown after being cut (like apples). Other varieties come in shades of lavender, jade green, orange, and cream, ranging from golf balls shapes to watermelon sizes.

Choose firm, vivid colored eggplants with bright green caps and stems. If ripe, a gentle press will spring back. If unripe, the indentation will remain. Store around 50 degrees – but don’t pre-cut, as they perish rapidly. When ready to eat, wash and then cut off the ends. Cut with stainless steel knife (carbon steel will turn the flesh black). Larger or whiter varieties have bitter skins, so peel, or scoop out flesh after baking. Some recipes call for ‘sweating’ which tenderizes and reduces bitterness. Sprinkle salt on eggplant slices and let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse before using in recipe.

Peak season August through October.

Energetics: Cooling, sweet flavor, reduces swelling, clears stagnant blood (by dissolving congealed blood, specifically uterus), reduces bleeding (hemorrhoids, bloody urine), rich in bioflavonoids (renews arteries, prevents strokes, hemorrhages). Treats dysentery, diarrhea with heat, snake and scorpion bites (apply raw eggplant poultice), frostbite (apply room temperature eggplant tea). Helps resolve repressed emotions influencing liver and uterus. Avoid during pregnancy.


Grilled Eggplant in Packets
• 1 eggplant, peeled and halved lengthwise
• 1 tomato, sliced
• 1 garlic clove minced
• 2 Basil leaves (or herb(s) of choice)
• Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 2 sheets heavy duty aluminum foil
1. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat.
2. Place one eggplant half and half the tomato slices on each sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with garlic, basil (herb(s) of choice), salt and black pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil. Fold the foil up to form packets.
3. Grill the packets until the eggplant and tomato are very tender, about 15 minutes.
• Small eggplants don’t have to be peeled. Peel larger ones to avoid bitter skin. No need to salt-sweat the eggplant for this recipe. Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com


© Donna Sigmond, EastWest Wellness