Healthy eating: Susan Jane White says the physalis berry is a superhero
The physalis berry is a superhero that goes by many names, says Susan Jane White, and it makes for terrific salads
These sherbety berries are lickysticky yummy and will hopefully find their way into your shopping trolley before some celebrity diet hijacks them. Ever so charming, physalis don't quite know whether they are a cherry tomato or a grape. You may already know them as Inca berries, Chinese lanterns, cape gooseberries, pearly round yolkimabobs or the Victoria Beckham of grapes (bright orange and deluded).
These sprightly little berries are buzzing with goodness. Each one supplies immune-enhancing beta-carotene and vitamin C to help slay bugs. Good news for snotty-nosed toddlers. Their generous stash of B vitamins assist in keeping our batteries charged, too, particularly B12, which is often lacking in vegetarian diets. B vitamins are responsible for the proper production and release of energy in our bodies, giving us a giddy-up when we most need it. Surprisingly for a fruit, physalis has about 16 per cent protein. Another nod to our vegetarian friends. So why haven't we heard more about these golden chaps, you holler? Probably because they don't have their own marketing department pushing them.
Physalis make terrific breakfasts and bus companions. Throw them into salads and conversation to impress.
Find them in Asian food stores or savvy grocers around the country. In their dried form, they look like amber raisins and can be found in the aisles of Aldi or health food stores. Be prepared for a sharp, tangy hit, one that is quite dissimilar to their fresh equivalents.
A Salad for Outside
This is our favourite when-you-could-not-be-bothered 90-second summer dish. Fresh physalis are pulpy and juicy like over-ripe cherry tomatoes. But, unlike tomatoes, there's a delectable sour smack, and this sourness makes them so darn delicious with goat's cheese. That same sour note delivers an armoury of anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. We like anthocyanins for their fight against ageing, but more particularly for suppressing inflammation in the body. Tender head, anyone?
Physalis berries are enrobed in a papery lantern, making it possible to store them for up to three weeks. The rest of the ingredients are generally ones you'll find knocking about your fridge.
You will need:
Handful of fresh physalis, papery pods removed
2 little gem lettuce heads
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons dried physalis or goji berries
2 teaspoons honey
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small tub soft goat's cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the fresh physalis berries in half. Break the leaves from the lettuce heads into the largest bowl you have. Gently tumble with the fresh physalis and the pumpkin seeds. Set aside.
Using a hand-held blender, whizz the dried physalis or goji berries, whichever you are using, the honey, the cayenne pepper and the extra-virgin olive oil together to make a glossy sauce; it will be almost like a mayo, but lighter in consistency. Pour over the salad and lightly toss together, using your fingertips. An implement like a spoon or fork can bruise the leaves and make a salad quickly look tired.
Pile on the centre of a large plate, and crown with a dollop of your favourite goat's cheese. We used Bluebell Falls, a sumptuous goat's cheese from Co Clare. A turn or two of the black pepper mill is all it needs now. And maybe factor 50.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine