Physalis Alkekengi: the Chinese lantern
The Physalis alkekengi, also known as Chinese Lantern, is a plant that arises and grows wild all over the Italian territory, except in Puglia and Calabria. You can observe it in plain, along the paths in the woods or in high humidity areas. The Alkekengi can reach 70 cm in height and the leaves are of a deep green, characterized by a triangular shape. Flowering occurs in summer, during July and August, and the flowers look like small bells cream.
At the end of the flowering period, the cup is closed and imprisons the future fruit. When the internal berry is ripe, red calyx begins to become transparent, assuming the characteristic shape of a Chinese lantern. The internal fruit, small and round, is the only edible part of the plant. Inside it is enclosed small seeds and a lovely pale yellow color. The Alkekengi belongs to the Solanaceae family and because its leaves are not to be swallowed they can cause numerous ailments.
The Physalis Alkekengi plant is grown mainly for the beauty that gives the ornamental borders in the garden, but can live well in pots. It grows very easily because the plant has originated from a rhizome that develops long and deep roots in the soil. Before putting a spring house, the ground needs to be properly prepared. It should drain it carefully and enrich it with humus, although the Chinese lantern does not need a particularly rich soil to grow lush.
The exposure must be carefully chosen because Alkekengi needs to grow with the full sunlight, but also protected by a light shade that can provide adequate shelter. also withstands the harshest climates because, during the winter season, losing all the leaves and the rhizome is only immersed in the ground. The Chinese lantern requires a moist soil with regular and frequent watering, especially during the summer period the supply of water is limited in the days immediately after sowing and during the winter season. To encourage flowering should be given every two weeks, a potassium-based fertilizer. Do not fear the attacks of pests but can be damaged by root rot and for this reason it is necessary to pay attention to water logging.
Alkekengi The name derives from the archaic French term “alquequange” which in turn derives from the Arabic origin “al-kakang”. The Chinese lantern, which in the language of flowers symbolizes deception, is particularly appreciated for the gentle texture of the fruit. The small berries, which taste very reminiscent of raspberries, are used to prepare tasty jams and jellies. Sometimes you can find them in as fine chocolate covered pastry shop windows. In Japan Alkekengi is so loved as to dedicate an entire market called “Hozuki-ichi,” during the month of July. The ancient people appreciated this plant for many medicinal properties. Rich in vitamin C, was used to reduce fever and treat skin diseases.