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Fruit of the Month: Inca Berry

Wrapped in delicate paper petals, the Inca berry -- known as uchuva in Costa Rica-- delivers a sweet burst of flavor followed by a tart finish. This antioxidant-packed superfruit is also known as the golden berry, cape gooseberry and Aztec berry, and is a cousin to the similarly shaped tomatillo. Native to the Andes of South America, Physalis peruviana is cultivated in small pockets of Costa Rica, and is prized for its unique taste and nutritional benefits.

Each spherical, yellow fruit is like a small gift, sheathed in a thin paper husk. Simply peel it off, and eat the uchuva raw for a tangy treat. The fruit can also be enjoyed dried, made into jams, mixed in with salads, or added to your favorite bread or muffin recipe. A true superfood, the Inca berry has more dietary fiber than prunes, is an excellent source of vitamin B12, and is chock full of phosphorous, Vitamin A and C. Inca berries are ideal for vegetarians as they have around 16% protein, which is very high for a fruit. A great energy booster and light in calories, the fruit makes a wonderful pre-workout snack or guilt-free dessert.

In Costa Rica, uchuva is grown in temperate climates and sold in farmers' markets and grocers country-wide. I usually pay less than $2 for a small bag, which provides a week's worth of healthy snacks. Upscale stores like Auto Mercado often package the Inca berries without the husks, where they may be mistaken for tomatillos. Next time you're at the market, ask if any vendors are selling "besos de amor," which translates into kisses of love-- a common nickname for the Inca berry.

Uchuva Pie Filling

2-3 cups of ripe uchuva, mashed
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons almond extract

Add top crust and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes; turn oven down to 350 F for 45 additional minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Fruit of the Month: Inca Berry in Pictures

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