James Wong's - Homegrown Revolution

GROWING INCA BERRIES

Posted on: December 27th, 2012 by James Wong 12 Comments

Sticky, sweet & incredibly exotic, you might not believe it but uber trendy South American inca berries are infinitely easier to grow than the lowly tomato. If you plant just 1 fruit crop next year, make this it!

WHAT ARE INCA BERRIES?

With their delicious tropical fruit flavour of ripe pineapples mixed with fresh kiwis, you might think the shiny golden fruit of inca berries would be terribly tricky to grow in the UK, requiring fancy heated greenhouses and teamfuls of staff. However despite their exotic appearance & chef’s penchant for using them in chic patisserie and posh cocktails, I believe the plants have to be the most overlooked and easiest to grow of all annual fruits.

HOW TO GROW INCA BERRIES

Sown just like their relative the tomato in March or April and planted outdoors when all risk of frost has past, these make super-productive, fast-growing plants that require none of the slavish devotion to feeding, watering & training that their cousins do, yet will provide you with a crop that’s twice as expensive to buy in the shops.

Drought tolerant and resistant to most pests and diseases (including the dreaded blight), come late September you will be rewarded with handfuls of sticky sweet berries for very little work in return.

Given just a little coddling the plants can often prove hardy in most parts of the UK, with my 3 plants kicking out hundreds of fruit every year despite having been left to fend for themselves outdoors over two of the coldest winters in a century. Not bad for a fruit we usually fly in from Colombia hey?

Give ‘em a sheltered spot & a nice thick mulch (an insulating layer of compost laid over their bases) and they should pop back up each spring after being knocked down by December frosts.

Don’t believe me? Well inca berries, under the name ‘Tipparees’, were once a common outdoor crop all over the UK in Victorian times. Mrs Beeton even made jam out of them! Check out my simplified twist on her classic recipe below.

HOW TO EAT INCA BERRIES

Apart from their winning flavour, inca berries also have an extremely long shelf-life, staying fresh for up to 3 months from a September picking – making them the only fresh homegrown berry you can eat on your Christmas dinner table. They are also packed full of pectin, meaning a perfect set for jams & jellies everytime without the need to use fancy jam sugars or adding liquid pectin.

Delicious straight from the bush, simmered up in pies, tumbled into crumbles or even chopped into fruity salsas, the berries are as versatile as they are easy to grow. However above all else, this is my absolute favourite inca berry recipe – shamelessly adapted from a Beetonian classic.

BUTTERED INCA BERRY & PINEAPPLE JAM (Makes 1 jar) 

1) De husk 40 inca berries & slice them in half.

2) Pop all the sliced fruit into a pan with 100g caster sugar and 1/2 cup of pineapple juice & stir together. Bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

3) After simmering for 15 minutes you will have a pan of softened fruit with wrinkly skins, floating in what looks like a disconcerting amount of syrupy liquid. Don’t panic, this will soon thicken during the next step. Blitz the whole lot up with a stick blender, or alternatively, mash them up with the back of a fork and whisk briskly to combine.

4) Stir in 1/2 tsp of butter until it melts and is entirely incorporated. This comparatively tiny amount of butter entirely transforms the flavour of the jam, turning it from fresh and fruity into something altogether more deep, rich & exotic.

5) Whilst still piping hot pour the mix into sterilised jars (just run ‘em through the dishwasher to do this) & seal the lids. The smoothie-like consistency will soon set on cooling.

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Inca Berries check out pg 236 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!

 

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12 Responses

  1. Di Stapley says:

    Sounds delicious! If only I had grown the right variety….

  2. M Turner says:

    They also make a really fabulous sorbet if you get a glut

  3. Mark and Gaz says:

    They sound great and look lovely too!

  4. Ans says:

    Do these berries contain vitamine B12, as is claimed by some websites? They never show the results of a proper reseach?
    Are there any fruits or vegetables that contain vitamine B12?

  5. Jim says:

    I love inca berries. That jam looks delicious btw.

  6. Monika says:

    I have sown Inca berries (cape gooseberries) three years ago.
    Every winter I brought the pot into the utility room until March and then out again.

    The first year, I had around ten fruit on the whole plant. A bit disappointing, but as I hate to throw away living plants, I kept it.
    The second year I had around 20 fruits on every single stem. WOW!!
    As the weather this year is a bit harsh (I think) I have left it in the utility room. The first flowers are appearing and it will go into the garden soon.

    I even planted cuttings from it and gave them away. They all thrived!

    Bees love the flowers too, so, if you need a pollinator, I think, Inca berries are great.

    Have a great revolution time :)

  7. Christina says:

    Thank you James, you have opened my eyes to a whole new world of garden possibilities, these will definitely be making their debut in my garden and its lovely to see how excited my 4 year old is at the prospect of many of these foods growing right outside the house.

  8. tom says:

    I love these fruits and I’d like to plant some of them outside, but I am slightly put off by the idea of them spreading. They sound voracious – if you scroll to the bottom of this page you get a litany of horror stories about them:

    http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/1894/

    I’d like to give it a go nonetheless, but would it work to put them in pots and bury the pots in the garden? What sort of size should I use?

  9. Ray says:

    Any idea for a seed source?

  10. Victoria says:

    Hi James,

    I’ve got three teeny tiny little Physalis plants that I’ve just planted out, but my only problem with them at the mo is Aphids. They LOVE them! How do I get rid of the Aphids please?

    Thank you!

  11. Jess says:

    Hi James! After ready your latest book I decided to give the inca berry a go. So far it has been growing happily with many flowers and subsequent fruits growing on each branch in the middle of our south Australian winter. However, in the last week or two the leaves have begun to turn a bit yellow. Any advice on how to care for my lovely inca in this state?

    Cheers

    Jess

  12. Judith says:

    I only have one plant, will I get any fruit?

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