Physalis alkekengi

Physalis alkekengi

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Name: Physalis alkekengi
Family: Solanaceae
Common names: chichingero, cherries, fiasche de corai, vingenze
Habitat: in shady areas in the undergrowth, up to a height of 1300 - 1500 meters.
Parts used: the berries, devoid of the peduncle and calyx

Family and GenderFam. Solanaceae, gen. Alkekengi franchetii or pubescens
Type of plantAnnual or perennial herbaceous deciduous
ExposureSun or partial shade
GroundLoose, calcareous and permeable
CultureModerately easy
HeightAt most 1.2 m, generally 50 cm
Propagationseed, division

Cape gooseberry cultivation

Harvest: when they are well ripe in August
Storage: dry in the oven at moderate temperature, then store in closed and dark containers.
Properties: anituric, deprurative, diuretic, emollient, refreshing, anti-inflammatory.
Use: Interior with fresh, infused juice.
Notes: other uses: for compresses against inflammation, boil 100 grams of fruit in a liter of water, apply to the affected area.


The plants in cultivation are native to the warm or temperate zones of the American continent. However, some species are also native. Their name refers to the envelope that encloses the fruit. Physalis in fact derives from the Greek and means "bubble" or "full of air". Its popular names are: balloons, chichingero, vigenze, Chinese lanterns.


They are annual or perennial plants belonging to the Solanaceae family (such as tomatoes and potatoes). They can have an erect or creeping habit. Perennial varieties are the most interesting from a horticultural point of view (but less from a gastronomic point of view). Their flowering takes place in summer. It should be noted that the bell-shaped flowers are mostly insignificant and not very decorative for the garden. Their color is yellow (with some purple reflections) and they look very much like those of pepper. What makes these plants precious is the red or orange lantern-shaped envelope that develops around the seed in late summer. As it goes to unravel, it will let us see the internal seed through a delicate web of ribs. The leaves are simple or finely engraved, triangular, medium green. In some species they are hairy, in others smooth.


Cape gooseberries are rather adaptable plants. They grow well both in the sun and in the shade (although, in the North, a very sunny position is definitely preferable). They are not even very demanding about land. However, to have excellent results we need to give them a calcareous soil that is well permeable to water, avoiding water stagnation.


All varieties in cultivation are quite sensitive to cold and especially to frost. It is better then to sow them in warm or at least greenhouses and once placed in the dwelling protect them very well in winter with a mulch of mature leaves or manure. If the winters were too harsh, it may be necessary to re-seed each year, thus treating the plant like an annual.


They are plants that need fairly frequent irrigations (especially if they are well exposed to the sun).
If they are in pots it is good to prevent the soil from drying too much. At the same time it is good to intervene at least twice a week if the plants are in the ground. It is however equally important to avoid water stagnation that could lead to rotting rhizomes. These occur more easily in pot cultivation: it is therefore necessary to prepare a good layer of expanded clay or gravel on the bottom of the container so as to favor the flow of excess water.


As with all solanaceae, fertilization is very important. At the time of planting it is necessary to place a handful of mature manure on the bottom of the hole, excellent as a base fertilizer. To obtain good results, both when we cultivate purely decorative varieties and if we are growing those that give edible fruits, it is good to administer a liquid fertilizer with a high potassium content every 15 days. This will stimulate the abundant production of flowers and consequently of lanterns containing the fruits that will ultimately be even more tasty. Their cultivation does not differ particularly from that of tomatoes.


The most used method for reproduction is sowing.
This must be done at the end of winter in a sheltered place. The seeds must be mixed with sand to distribute them evenly (they are very small). First they must be sown in lettorino, covered with light loam or vermiculite (they will germinate within a week or two), and then they will be put back in alveoli. It is important to always keep the wet soil and a temperature around at least 15 ° C ... It is better to expose the alveoli to the light and wait for them to reach at least 10 cm in height (more or less when they produced the fifth leaf) before transplanting to their home . The ideal distance between one plant and another is 60 cm (especially for edible varieties). For the franchisees, 30 cm is sufficient. It is a plant that, under the right conditions, expands very easily through rhizomes. It is therefore easy to reproduce it by dividing the head. It is sufficient to insert the spade in a point dividing the portion with a clear stroke from the rest of the bush, extract the section from the ground to move it to another area of ​​the garden. It is an operation to be carried out in spring (even in autumn where winters are milder).


I am very healthy plants and are not particularly attacked by insects. The only problem that can be found is the rot of the roots. Above all, prevention must be done by giving a not too compact soil and controlling irrigation.
If despite these treatments we have to see the plant in distress (which is manifested by a yellowing of the leaves) it is absolutely necessary to reduce the irrigation and to spread on the ground products that fight root rot (based on propamocarb or fosetyl aluminum).


As for all the vivacious plants the only foresight is to intervene in the spring to clean up the dry stems of the previous year by cutting them at ground level.


Physalis alkekengi: it is widespread all over the world and in Italy it has become practically spontaneous in some areas. The plant is glabrous and the lanterns are very decorative because they can reach 10 cm in diameter. Generally, especially in cold areas, dry at the beginning of winter and therefore the plant must be cleaned.
If, on the other hand, you live in places that are not very rigid, you can keep the stems even throughout the winter and the orange wraps become very decorative after the morning frosts.
It is a plant that, if well, tends to widen a lot and could therefore become invasive. It is therefore important to keep an eye on her and, if necessary, commit to keeping her confined to her spaces.
Var franchetii: some consider it a separate species, others only a variety. It grows more (90 cm) and has more pointed lanterns. The var. Gigantea has even more important lanterns.
Var. “Variegata” franchetii: decorative also for the leaves, variegated in yellow and cream.
Physalis pubescens: it is an annual variety, with a height of 20 cm (it has a prostrate habit).
It is one of the varieties cultivated for the production of edible berries, similar to yellow or orange cherries (also called earthy cherries). They are sweet, slightly acid fruits. After the harvest it is very easy to keep them in the fridge and keep them until Christmas.
Physalis peruviana (or edulis) also produces berries suitable for human consumption. The plant is more upright, but the fruits are almost always less sweet.

Use in the garden

The perennial varieties of physalis find their use both in the mixed border and in the most spontaneous part of the garden. It should be borne in mind that these are not particularly decorative plants (although light habit can find good locations). They must be seen in the perspective of giving the garden a continuity in the blooms. The alchechengi indeed has the undoubted merit of showing off its lanterns in late autumn when the rest of the garden is preparing for winter rest.
In addition, the capsules become more and more decorative as the season progresses, elegantly revealing the colorful internal berry. A further advantage derives from the fact that the drums can be easily removed and dried. They can also be used as cut flowers or in pot-pourris that will last a long time decorating our homes in the winter months.

Culinary use

It must first be pointed out that, like many solanaceae, it is a plant that is mostly toxic. In fact all its parts are, except the ripe berries. Contact with leaves can cause irritation and allergic reactions. We must therefore pay the utmost attention.
It should also be noted that the fruit of the perennial garden varieties is edible, but its taste is too acid to be pleasant.
If you want to grow the plant for food, you must therefore buy seeds of the annual varieties such as the edulis or the pubescens.

Cape gooseberry - Physalis alkekengi: Recipes with cape gooseberry

Chocolate alchechengi
Very often, during the winter, chocolate-wrapped berries are surrounded by their capsules.
In reality it is very simple to make them at home. It is sufficient to melt dark chocolate in the microwave (or in a bain-marie) and then immerse the berries in it. The chocolate will thicken first if we have kept the berries in the refrigerator (even in the freezer) so that they are very cold. To give a final touch we can again dip them in granulated sugar so that around the chocolate is created a frost similar to the winter one.
Snowflake jam
Ingredients: 700 gr of cape gooseberries
400 grams of sugar
A bag of pectin (or a few slices of apple with peel)
Lemon juice
Optional: some fresh ginger
Wash the fruits well and place them in the casserole with the sugar, pectin (or the finely chopped apple), lemon juice and ginger. Bring to a boil and cook until the consistency is not too liquid (the less it is cooked, the better it is to preserve the flavor).
Put very hot in clean jars. If you want to do this before you can filter with a metal strainer to remove the seeds.
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  1. Fezuru

    Wacker, it seems to me a great idea

  2. Elton

    This topic is simply incomparable :), I like)))

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