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Alchechengi, also called Physalis alkekengi, by its more technical fans, it is known for its fruit, rich in vitamin C and good for the liver, stomach and urinary tract. Part of his fame is also linked to his very particular appearance, which has led to him being given the nickname "Chinese lantern". It is not recent, it is an ancient nickname, in fact the name Alchechengi itself is a Latinization of the Arabic al-kakang. literally "Chinese lantern". Everything fits, now we can move on to its characteristics.
Alchechengi: the plant
L'alchechengi is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Solanaceae family, cultivable even in the cold seasons as it is quite resistant even to the cold. Without exaggerating! It is often better to keep it in a vase, so as not to risk it falling victim to frost. It is a beautiful and useful plant, beautiful for its colorful lanterns, useful and also good for its fruits.
In Italy you can easily find this plant, in almost all regions, but its origins are to be found in the East, in a vast and rather vaguely indicated area that ranges from the Caucasus to Japan. In addition to its berries, which I will describe in depth, this plant has beautiful leaves that are very reminiscent of tissue paper in texture. They look like art installations, or those flowers packed in paper for special occasions. The fruits of'Alchechengi they are special occasions, in fact.
Alchechengi: the fruit
They are berries very similar to small, slightly greasy golden tomatoes, the fruits ofAlchechengi and should be sought while they peek out in elegant floral goblets. They are officially considered a food rich in vitamins and active ingredients, the best known value is the content of vitamin C, to use it first, in very ancient times, were the Orientals but today its properties are known to all, in all the world.
The flavor of the fruit of the Alchechengi can be defined lightly citrus, it's not bad at all and it doesn't look anything like tomato: there is only a morphological analogy between the two. The time of harvest is the month of August, so that they are well ripe, then it is advisable to dry them in the oven at a moderate temperature and keep them in closed and dark containers. The rest of the plant is not edible, indeed, I would like to specify that the leaves are also toxic. They surround these small tomatoes in an aesthetic chalice but they are rich in solanine and it is absolutely recommended not to ingest them.
L'Alchechengi it is considered an excellent ally for the liver, stomach, stomach, urinary tract and kidneys. It is also a good friend of the immune system, it strengthens it, and is recommended when you want to encouragediuretic activity. Consumed very often pulverized, top trend in Unani medicine, this fruit is one of the sources of vitamin C more effective: it contains about double what we can take by eating a whole lemon. But it's not just vitamins, Alchechengi is also rich in many others antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory substances, including physaline and ethyl coffee.
The content of tannins and mucilage should also not be overlooked, responsible for both its not always pleasant greasy aspect, and for the more appreciated astringent properties. The golden color, instead, it is not linked to tannins but, as imaginable, by carotenoids which are present in large quantities. Then there are various acids, in addition to the citric one, which make theAlchechengi an excellent remedy to prevent the formation of kidney stones and to dissolve existing ones.
Having acknowledged, and taken note, that the leaves are toxic, we take into account that there are also contraindications on the fruit of this plant. Nothing serious but like all other Solanaceae, theAlchechengi contains many alkaloids that could be at the origin of allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals. As for interactions with other drugs, the fruit does not give particular problems, there are some studies that hypothesize problems with diuretics, therefore a medical consultation is recommended before using them. Either way, better than the quantities consumed are always reasonable.
Aesthetically similar to tomatoes, the fruits of Alchechengi also require a type of cultivation that does not differ much from that of the well-known reddish vegetable. Nothing of what, therefore, we can cheer up and think about it. I mean about cultivating one "Chinese lantern" all for us.
Rather adaptable, as a plant, theAlchechengi it grows both in the sun and in the shade, it does not require a particular type of soil but, given the choice, it prefers calcareous and well permeable to water. He will reward us with an abundant one fruit production, but as long as we do not force it to endure water stagnation that can cause the roots to rot.
It bears the cold but not complete frosts, so in order not to risk killing our Alchechengi it is better to protect it very well in winter, for example with a mulch of leaves or mature manure. In the other seasons, however, and especially in summer, this plant requires fairly frequent watering, at least twice a week, without forgetting the very important fertilization.
To cultivate the Alkechengi in pots, you need to be more careful. For example, the soil should be kept under very close attention to prevent it from drying out too much. The watering must be frequent, therefore, but without exaggerating because the danger of stagnation is lurking. Yes, because in pots it is even easier for accumulations to build up which rot the rhizome of the plant.
To prevent this from happening, or make it unlikely, it is advisable to prepare the container of our plant by arranging a good layer of expanded clay or gravel on the bottom. This is the trick to facilitate the drainage of excess water. And save our Alchechengi.
Potted, with a little attention, in the garden, more carefree, but let's try to grow some Chinese lanterns in our very Italian garden. Or balcony that is. An 18 gram sachet of seeds, 3.50 euros, and we are ready for the adventure, we can alongside the tomatoes and see if they get confused or become friends.
Alchechengi with chocolate
Harvested in the summer, the fruit of Alchechengi it can be eaten both fresh, just like any other fruit, and in its dried form once it is properly preserved. There are sauces and jams based on this fruit, but the tastiest way to eat it is cover it with chocolate. Without chocolate, 100 g of Alchechengi contain 66.25 kcal: we can cover it and enjoy the delicacy thinking that it is also rich in vitamin C.
Even the decorative use of this plant, called in fact Chinese lantern, it should not be overlooked: taking and turning the orange berry and keeping the thin peel similar to rice paper you get a very suggestive shape. What to do with it? Also in the kitchen, it is used to decorate and embellish our dishes, it is perfect for fruit salads, desserts and sweets.
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