by Chelo Grubb
A new superfruit juice just started filling the shelves at Whole Foods — and is starting to make its way across Southern Arizona.
The Pichuberry, which looks like an orange cherry, is a South American superfruit a University of Arizona graduate is trying to bring into the mainstream.
Michael Popescu, general manager of Mojo Tree Farm, started the business behind the berry in 2010 as part of his Master’s thesis at Eller College of Management at the UA. After he graduated the business moved to Phoenix.
The fruit is known by many names, including the Inca berry, poha and Peruvian groundcherry.
Popescu decided to rebrand the fruit as “Pichuberry” to link it to Machu Picchu and the plant’s Peruvian roots.
The company’s website— pichuberry.com — has recipes for the berries, including “Pico De Pichuberry Salsa” and strawberry and Pichuberry pink peppercorn frozen yogurt.
The website also details the fruit’s nutritional make up and compares it to other fruits, such as pomegranates and papayas.
Dietitian and Pichuberry spokesman Manuel Villacorta has called the berry the “superfruit of superfruits” not only because of it’s high vitamin A, B, C and D content, but also because of potential antioxidant properties.
Recent testing has indicated the berries contain withanolides, a group of steroids that seem to suppress cancer cells and act as an antioxidant. Research about withanolides’ health benefits is still being conducted.
Meanwhile, Mojo Tree Farm is working with doctors at the UA College of Pharmacy to pinpoint the berry’s cancer-fighting potential.
Pichuberry juices hit the shelves at Whole Foods stores across Arizona at the beginning of May. However, the fruit itself is currently only available to Tucsonans at local farmers’ markets.
Pichuberry’s Facebook page says to expect more products —both juices and fruit— to start showing up on the shelves of other retailers, including Sprouts, soon.