Wonder Berries are in the nightshade family, it is an annual related to Tomatoes and eggplant. They are not true berries. The fruit is blueish-black and roughly the size of blueberry, sometimes a tad larger. The plants are erect and bushy,reaching a height of about two feet. They produce prolifically from early summer till autumn and take about 75 days to reach full maturity.
Like tomatoes, they do not tolerate cold or frost. They can grow anywhere Tomatoes grow, which leaves them a fairly large domain. Sometimes referred to as sun berry or garden huckleberry, the wonder berry was developed in the early 20th century.
Clusters of white flowers are produced in midsummer from which troves of wonder berries are produced.
Seed can be started indoors in the same fashion as tomatoes or peppers for later transplant outdoors. After a hardening off period , when all danger of frost is gone they can be transplanted outdoors. In warmer climates they can be direct seeded into the garden.
For seed conditioning prior to planting, one technique is to soak the seeds in warm water for about 1/2 hour. Water should be slightly above room temperature, any warmer could cook the seed. The best temperature for seed germination is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Germination at lower temperatures is much slower.
There has been some talk about them being unsafe to eat, which is untrue. Ripe Wonder berries are perfectly safe to eat, unripened, green berries are toxic. They probably won’t kill you, just make you wish you were dead. A nibble of an unripe berry is all it would take to make you spit them out. Unripe wonderberries taste horrendously bitter. Of the five tastes, sour, sweet, salty, and savory , bitter is the most unappealing. It is Natures sign to steer clear of potentially toxic foods.
Ripe berries are harmless, and easily distinguished from unripe ones. They lose any hint of their youthful green and turn their trademark blue-black. They also soften in texture and lose the toxins that produced that bitter taste.
The ripe berries can be a let down in the taste department, if eaten raw they taste similar to an under ripe tomato. They are best used in preserves, pies and sauces.
When combined with sugar in desserts and preserves the sweetener compliments the unusual taste. If you’ve ever tried any Green Tomato Recipes – it is similar.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone grow any great quantity of these, they are best as a novelty . Harvesting is also a tad tricky as the berries tend to become very mushy when ripe. The few bushes I have I generally harvest by shaking off the loose ones and discarding any that have the slightest hint of green. Unlike tomatoes they will not ripen off the plant, just rot.