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Barbados gooseberries are round or oval in shape, averaging 1-2 centimeters in diameter, and they are identified by their golden yellow or deep orange hues. Their thin, smooth skin houses soft, juicy, opaque flesh with inedible, soft brown or black seeds. Barbados gooseberries have high acidity, and are quite tart in taste. This cactus plant begins its life as a leafy shrub and then uses vine-like branches to climb and expand. Spines can be found on the branches along with the fruit, and the leaves are fleshy and edible.
Barbados gooseberries are available late spring and again in late fall.
Barbados gooseberries, botanically classified as Pereskia aculeate, belong to Cactaceae, or cactus family. This unusual cactus cultivar is commonly known as the Lemon Vine, Sweet Mary, Leaf Cactus, Blade Apple, and Ora-pro-nobis in Brazil. Unlike other cacti, Barbados gooseberries are leafy, climbing shrubs with spiny, non-succulent stems. A unique feature of this cactus is the ability to spread quickly and use other vegetation to anchor itself to. It also has the ability to re-grow from fallen leaves and fragments of its stem. This shrub is considered an aggressive invasive species and is banned in many countries like South Africa and Hawaii because of its destructive nature.
Barbados gooseberries have high nutritional content in both the fruit and leaves. The fruit is a good source of vitamin A, and it contains high water content. It also offers a low amount of calcium, protein, and phosphorus. The leaves have been found to be an excellent source of protein, and they contain iron, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium in levels much higher than in spinach and lettuce.
Barbados gooseberries can be used in both raw and cooked applications. They are most popularly enjoyed in sweetened syrups and jams, where the fruits are stewed and preserved with sugar. A popular gooseberry pairing is to cook it down with sugar and water to create a compote that can be use in a variety of main dishes and accompaniments. This compote compliments chutneys, sorbets, and even savory sauces and salads. Keep these perishable fruits in the refrigerator. The leaves can also be cooked and used as a vegetable or dried and crushed to be combined into various dishes such as miso soup, breads, and sausages.
The Barbados gooseberry plant, known as ora-pro-nobis in Medias, Brazil, plays a vital role in local cooking. The leaves are the most typical cooking ingredient because of their high nutritional content and are most often found in savory dishes. These leaves are also used for medicinal purposes including fighting inflammation and can help soften and soothe skin when directly applied.
Barbados gooseberries are thought to have originated in areas of South America and the Caribbean Islands. They later spread to Central America and locations scattered throughout North America. Barbados gooseberries are seldom found growing truly wild today, but are commercially or domestically grown for their ornamental nature, as well as for their fruit and leaves. Barbados gooseberries thrive in a humid climate and in low elevations. They can be found in Israel, the Philippines, India, and Australia.
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