Home / Inca Berry / Inca Berry: Growing this tasty fruit

Inca Berry: Growing this tasty fruit

Inca Berry

(Physalis peruviana)

 

Inca Berry Overview:

The Inca Berry is an easy to grow attractive herbaceous shrub with amazing fruit.

 

Fruit Appearance:

The fruit is really cool.  It comes in a papery Chinese lantern like packaging.  Inside the papery packaging is the edible marble sized golden fruit.  The plant looks a lot like a tomatillo because they are so closely related.

 

Ripe Inca Berry

Ripe Inca Berry fruit in hand: Opened (top) and unopened (bottom)

Inca Berry taste:  

  • Overall the Inca Berry taste is a sweet and mildly sour. However there is also an exotic background flavor with elements of citrus and somewhat musky elements.
  • It seems that every berry that I have tasted (and I have eaten many) has a subtly different flavor.
  • The fruit also contains many small pleasantly crunchy seeds.

 

Closeup shot: I took a bite out of this one to show you the inside/seeds

Closeup shot: I took a bite out of this one to show you the inside/seeds

Video taste:

My friend, Stasi Seay is an expert wine educator and has an excellent palate. I had her try the Inca Berry for the first time and caught her reactions on video. Check out the YouTube link.

 

Fruit Season:

  • There seem to be several potential fruiting seasons depending on conditions.  I have several plants growing now and they seem to flower and fruit throughout the year.
  • The fruit is only ready to eat when the papery coating turns brown and falls to the ground on its own.  The green fruits that haven’t fallen to the ground are not ripe and may be poisonous.

 

Landscaping use: 

  • The Inca Berry is a small shrub like, soft-wooded plant with velvety heart shaped leaves.  The plant grows 2 to 6 feet in height.
  • Unfortunately, the plant is relatively short lived.  Some reports state that it will live to about 3 years.   However, on the plus side, it is very easy to grow from seeds.
  • The Inca Berry is also related to nightshade and most of the plant is poisonous to mammals.  Therefore, I did not cage the roots to protect it from gophers.  In fact, I welcome the pesky gophers and rabbits to try and take a bite.

 

Unripe Inca Berry

Beautiful unripe Inca Berry fruit on plant

Inca Berry propagation:

  • The Inca Berry is really easy to grow from seed, and I recommend you do so because of the plants relatively short life span.
  • I have also seen a few “volunteer” Inca Berries sprouting up around the yard that were likely “planted” by my local munching animals.
  • See how easy it is to propagate the Inca Berry here http://tastylandscape.com/2013/05/05/how-to-propagate-inca-berry/
  • If you don’t have access to the fruit, then buying seeds would be my second choice.
    The cool thing is that once you get them going, you wont need to buy Inca Berry seeds again because you just use the fruit to grow additional plants.
    I found what looks to be good Inca Berry (Physalis Peruvian) seeds on Amazon (see link below).
    CAPE GOOSEBERRY “Physalis Peruviana” 25-Annual Seeds

 

Soil:

  • The Inca Berry does really well in our nutrient poor soil.
  • However, the plant does better if you add in some organic material, but not too much.  If the soil is too rich you with get a lot of vegetative growth and less fruit.
  • The most important thing for this plant is that the soil needs to be well draining.
  • Overall, the plant does best on sandy/gravelly loam.
  • They do grow fine in pots but do much better in the ground.

 

Water:

Regular watering during the growing season.  Cut back on watering during fruiting.

 

Sun:

Full sun.

 

Fertilization:

Go light on the fertilization.  Over fertilization will give you a lot of vegetative growth and less fruit.

 

Temp:

  • Inca Berries grow wild at high equatorial altitudes, which makes sense based on its natural range.  However, I suspect that the equatorial mountains of its natural range are still pretty warm.
  • To this end, I have also read that the plant is cold sensitive and will die back with a hard frost; but can sprout back the next year if not too cold. I have not seen this happen here, perhaps it was not cold enough.  The Inca Berry is an annual in temperate regions and a perennial in the tropics.  I live close to sea level in Southern California and the thing is doing really well.
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”

 

Pests:

  • I have not noticed any pests so far.
  • However, I have read that older plants (greater than 2 years old) are prone to root rot in South Africa.
  • Too much humidity has been reported to result in powdery mildew.
  • The potato tuber moth is apparently a problem if in the vicinity of potato fields.
  • Cutworms, red spiders, mites, and white fly have also been reported to be a problem.
  • Since it is related to the nightshade, most of the plant is poisonous.  However, I have also read that hares can damage young plants; I guess that’s possible, but I am in disbelief.
  • Slugs and snails don’t seem to bother the plant yet.

Pests update (8/17/13)

Three-lined Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila):

  • Recently a fellow gardener asked me a question about holes in the leaves of his Inca Berry plant. Well, I have some good news… and some bad news.
    • The good news is, I am pretty sure I know whats causing his leaf-hole problem.
    • The bad news is that I now have that problem.
Not so mysterious leaf holes

Not so mysterious leaf holes

  • The culprit is the rather over sexed “Three Lined Potato Beetle
    • I say over sexed because the majority of the ones that I have seen (either on my plants or on-line) are getting it on.
Three is a crowd for this one

Three is a crowd for this one

  • It seems that there is some regional variation in the coloring of the beetle: East-coasters seem to have a red head and West-coasters have a darker or yellow head.
  • This pest really likes plants in the tomato (Solanaceae) family, and from what I have read, they seems to have a uncanny predisposition for tomatillo plants… Which are very very similar to the Inca Berry.  So its no wonder why these guys are going bonkers on the Inca Berry leaves.
Three-lined Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila):

Three-lined Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila):

  • The larvae are rather filthy, in that they cover themselves with their own crap. Apparently, this is a defense mechanism.
Three-lined Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila):

Crappy larva

  • Insect prevention involves rotating crops and row covers (before they arrive in early summer).
  • Once the bugs are there/here the goal is to eliminate them however you can.
    • I have been spraying off the orange clusters of eggs with a garden hose.   I have done the same for the poo covered larva (well, at least they are getting a much needed shower).
    • Some people advocate picking off the larva and adults by hand.  Although this is time consuming, its not too difficult given that the adults seem rather dim-and slow.  However, the beetles can fly if you give them a chance.
  • Since I just got hit with this infection, I haven’t tried insect sprays yet.  However, I have read that carbaryl, permethrin, bifenthrin, neem, pyrethrins and soaps work.   The soap option seems like a rather appropriate option for the dirty little larva.

 

Some additional Three Lined Potato Beetle references:

http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2010/07/09/three-lined-potato-beetle-3/

http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource001192_Rep1517.pdf

 

Food use:               

  • Inca Berries taste awesome fresh off the bush.
  • It is also made into jam, dried and added to trail mix, used in muffins, biscuits, cakes, pies and cookies.
  • Inca berries and cheese also go great together.
  • I also just read that chocolate covered Inca berries are “amazing,” I’ll have to try that soon.

 

Misc:

  • The Inca Berry is native to high-altitude, tropical Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador (thus the plants name).
  • There is a long list of reported medical benefits, and the Inca Berry is being hailed as being the latest “Superfood.” This might (or might not) be true, I haven’t really looked into the validity of those claims yet.
  • The Inca Berry is also known by the names;

    Poha Berry, Cape Gooseberry, Aztec Berry, Golden Berry, Giant Ground Cherry, Peruvian Ground Cherry, Peruvian Cherry, Pok Pok, Poha, Ras Bhari, Aguaymanto, Uvilla, Uchuva, Physalis.

  • If your looking for a cash crop this might be the one.   The easy to grow Inca Berry produce boatloads of fruit… And a handful of the fruit sells for close to $5 at high end grocery stores… Amazing opportunity for the right person.

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

8 comments

  1. Hi,
    It is now 29th November in Cornwall, UK and my inca berries have not ripened. I picked one yesterday which was ok but the rest are still green. Do they withstand cold weather(frost), or is it too late for them? I don’t know why they’re not ripe, they went in early enough and we have had a good summer.
    Please help.
    Jo

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jo
      Thanks for the great questions

      Green Fruit:
      Yea, sometimes the Inca Berry plants flower late in the season and/or their fruit take a while to ripen.
      The rate of ripening seems to be related to the amount of sun and warmth the Inca Berry plants get in the growing season.
      Sometimes I get a second or third crop late in the season, and those late Inca Berry fruit rarely ripen very well.

      I am not sure, but perhaps some frost protection will help your Inca berry fruit to finish ripening before the colder weather.
      If you havent already done so, in the future, try planting your Inca Berry plants in an area that gets maximal sunlight and plant in an area that is as warm as possible (ex; against a south facing wall – or not in a depression where cold air collects).

      Also: 1 year old Inca Berry plants seem to have a harder time with the fruit than 2 year old plants.
      Also…Also: I wouldnt eat the green fruit.

      Survive the cold:
      The Inca Berry plants do hold up in the cold and they will survive frost.
      From what I have read, in cooler climates they may die back in the winter but come back the next year. That being said, a prolonged deep freeze will kill them.
      We only get an occasional light frost here in southern California, and it doesn’t seem to bother the Inca Berry plants much.
      Overall, the Inca Berry plants live a maximum of about 3 years regardless of what you do.
      However, they are so easy to grow from seed, I just get a new batch started each year and cycle then through.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

      Thanks!

  2. Where should I buy my seeds. Thank u

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Dawn
      Great question. I have actually never bought Inca Berry seeds. However, I have started hundreds from fruit. They are very easy to grow and you get lots and lots from the seed of one fruit.

      If you have a place to buy the fruit, just sacrifice one of the fruit, squeeze out the seeds and grow like a tomato plant.

      If you don’t have access to the fruit, then buying seeds would be my second choice.
      The cool thing is that once you get them going, you wont need to buy Inca Berry seeds again because you just use the fruit to grow additional plants.
      I found what look to be good Inca Berry (Physalis Peruvian) seeds on Amazon (see link below).
      CAPE GOOSEBERRY “Physalis Peruviana” 25-Annual Seeds

  3. Hi. I have grown this fruit for the first time this year and find that I have a glut of the fruits, can I freeze any surplus for use over the Winter months. Thanks

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Simon
      Sorry that I am just getting back to you now-I was out of town giving a lecture.

      But more importantly… Congrats on your large crop.
      Good question about freezing the fruit.
      Personally I have never tried it.
      However, since the fruit is so closely related to tomato’s, it might not work so well.
      But again, I have never tried it. It might be worth doing a little experiment with a few of them to see how it goes.

      Most people that I know of turn the fruit into jam or preserves, etc to extend their life past their season.

      Hope this helps,

      Best,
      Tom

  4. I have had so much problem growing these plants, I planted some in a card board pot so as to make them easy to be put in the ground, something came up and after a while I noticed it looked like a weed growing instead. It sure was different, you know the weeds that have clusters of tiny green grape like pods growing at the top and and at certain levels on the stems. Well that is what I got, do you think when I bought the seeds on lone they sold me weed seeds instead? Cause I never had them near in dirt, I grew them on my front porch and used soil I bought form Lowes home department store. I had like 3 different card board containers and now grew. I kept a little bowl of water under them and it kept the soil moist. When they got bigger I put them in a bigger pot with more soil, until I can test my soil before planting them in the ground. I have one plant in there still and it looks like it might be golden berry, it’s stalks are a little hairy. I have problems with leaf miners though they seem to like my goji berries and the plant I assume is golden berry. They did not touch the weed though. I promised my neighbor a golden berry plant yet I have none for her. I do have goji berry though for her. Now in California it gets to cold at night to grow the golden berry plant. I hope this other plant is a golden berry I have to wait and see when it grows bigger. I tried to look for golden berry plants for sale on line and can not find any. I started my Big goji berry plants with plants I bought on-line. Aphids and spider mites devastated them, I pulled them out of the ground cause I thought they were dead yet they grew back again, I used soap spray and even killed those bugs by hand and even used neem oil and they still killed them. I pulled the two that grew out of the ground and put vitamin B-1 on the roots before planting them in a pot with good soil, then it happened again they grew back again in the same place. Probably cause i would give them compost tea with molasses and fish emulsion and sea weed extract in a 5 gallon bucket with fish air pumps I think that boosted up the roots. I have had so much trouble, I even bought a tiller and added good soil to the ground. I was planning on starting a garden yet the insects discouraged me. They(Aphid, spider mites) even killed my 2 tomato plants I put in the back yard. I was so depressed when I pulled those plants I worked so hard to take care of them. I learned when you see ants crawling on your plants the aphids are right there beside them the ants protect the aphids cause their waste product is sweet. I seen a video of ants fighting with bugs that eat aphids,crazy huh? I also learned that there are certain plants that attrack the insects that eat these bad bugs. You can look on-line as to which plant attracks which insect that eats them. That would be good except when you use soap spray that will kill the good insects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Scroll To Top

The forecast for 92084 by WP Wunderground