Physalis

Physalis

  • Albu Irina Mara

  • Clasa a 12-a B

  • Colegiul Național “Mircea cel Bătrân

General details

Physalis alkekengi (bladder cherry, Chinese lantern, Japanese lantern) is a relative of P. peruviana, easily identifiable by the larger, bright orange to red papery covering over its fruit, which resemble paper lanterns. It is native from southern Europe east across southern Asia to Japan.

It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to 40–60 cm tall, with spirally arranged leaves 6–12 cm long and 4–9 cm broad. The flowers are white, with a five-lobed corolla 10–15 mm across, with an inflated basal calyx which matures into the papery orange fruit covering, 4–5 cm long and broad.

Origins and location

With its ancient history, no one knows the Physalis fruit’s exact origins, but it definetily belongs to the Old World. Thanks to its wide adaptability, the Physalis is cultivated all around the world, especially in the area between Southern Europe and Eastern Asia.

There is a festival in Japan dedicated to this fruit, called the hōzuki festival. The countries with the highest consumption of Physalis are: Holand, Germany, France, The United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Brasil and Belgium.

Growing conditions

The Physalis fruit succeeds in a sheltered position in any well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Prefers a rich loam, but tolerates poor soils. If the soil is too rich it encourages leaf production at the expense of fruiting. It can succeed outdoors as a herbaceous perennial or when grown in favoured positions such as the foot of a sunny wall.

Some cultivars will tolerate temperatures down to about -10° when grown in this way. It would be wise to apply a good protective mulch to the roots in late autumn after the top growth has been cut back by frosts. The plant is usually naturally bushy, but it can be useful to pinch out the growing tip whilst the shoots are less than 30cm tall in order to encourage side shoots.

Cultures, traditions, legends

In Japan, its seeds are used as part of the Bon Festival as offerings to guide the souls of the deceased. Also, an annual market is dedicated to the flower called hōzuki-ichi which occurs in Asakusa around Sensō-ji, every year on July 9 and 10.

Chemical structure

The calyx is toxic and should not be eaten. The fruit is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and some of the B complex (thiamine, niacin and B12). The protein and phosphorus levels are exceptionally high for a fruit. Moreover, it contains vitamin P, well-known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral properties. Being extremely rich in carotenoids and polysaccharides, it helps fortify the immune system. These fruits contain 18 kinds of amino acids, with all the 8 essential amino acids.

Culinary utilities

Before, the physalis had medicinal uses, for diuretic and antiseptic purposes or as regulator of liver activity and even as a sedative or laxative, but it was also consumed thanks to its nutritional value. Furthermore, it appears at the end of autumn, when fruits, in general, are rare.

They were also used for compresses with the fruit and crushed leaves’ juice, soaked with an infusion made of these plant’s parts, to improve skin conditions, the erythema and rheumatic pains. The melatonin in Physalis prevents neurodegenerative diseases among the elder population. It is also used in treating/preventing cancer, leukemia, rheumatism, asthma, malaria, hepatitis, dermatitis, kidney stones or gout.

Mango and Physalis Cake

Crust:

  • 3 eggs

  • 3 spoons of sugar

  • 50 g butter

  • 1 tablespoon of orange essence

  • salt

  • 4 spoons of flour

Filling:

  • 250 g fresh cottage cheese

  • 250 g liquid cream

  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla essence

  • 4 spoons of powdered sugar

  • 1 gelatine bag

  • 4 physalis fruits

  • 1 piece of mango

Decorations:

  • 100 g physalis fruits

  • 1 piece of mango

  • 200 g coconut

We beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. We add the sugar and mix it until it melts. We beat the egg yolks with the butter and the orange essence and add it gradually in the whites. We also add the flour and mix it gently, from top to bottom. We pour the dough in a buttered and dusted with flour cake shaped tray and put it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. The crust is then let to cool down.

In the meantime, we mix the cheese with the sugar and vanilla essence. We gradually add it to the well-stirred cream. We dissolve the gelatine in 100 ml of water, for 10 minutes, putting it on a steam bath, stirring continuously until it’s completely dissolved and then mix it with the cheese. The filling is added on the crust and let it cool down in the fridge for a few hours. We remove it from the tray and decorate it with the coconut, mango and physalis.

Bon appétit!

Personal impression:

Even if I knew nothing about their existence, now I can say that I’ve found my favorite fruits! Right after the open lesson, where we had the pleasure to eat a lot of delicious fruits, I started to include the Physalis in my daily meals, and even in the other family members’ meals!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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