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Chinese Lantern, Physalis alkekenji (edible relative of Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana)  RSS feed

 
Dillon Nichols
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Location: Victoria BC
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I'm a big fan of the Aunt Molly's cultivar of Goldenberry/Ground-cherry/Cape Gooseberry(Physalis peruviana), but the site I'm currently planting on, my parents property, is perhaps marginal in terms of temperature. I've heard a hot summer is important for them to ripen well. I'm planting some anyhow, time will tell.


However, I've also heard of the related Physalis alkekenji, AKA Chinese Lantern, helpfully also called ground-cherry among other things, which is supposed to need less heat to ripen well and is more cold-hardy.

Unfortunately it's not reputed to taste all that great...

Anyone growing this, especially in the Pacific Northwest?

How's the fruit?
 
r ranson
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Exciting. I'm growing ground cherries for the first time this year. I'm using some random seed I got from the seed exchange on Seedy Saturday back in Feb. Good thing is it's going to be locally adapted to our clime (also near Victoria), chancy thing is I have no idea how it's going to taste.

Long ago, my father had great success with Cape Gooseberries up in Comox, but I think they get a little bit warmer in the 'North' Island (everything's north island when you live on the southern tip).

I've also seen some lantern-like orange things do really well down town, near Johnson and Cook in the past. Or thereabouts. I can't remember the exact location, but it was in someone's front yard and thrived. I didn't know then they were edible, so I didn't scrump any for tasting.

An old victorian trick is to put half gallon jugs of water near the roots of the plant. This is suppose to hold heat and release it into the soil at night, but one has to be careful because glass bottles full of water also act like a magnifying lense and can burn plants or start fires (not a good thing with our dry summers).

Another option would be to get a few free windows and either lean them up near the plant, or if you are handy, construct a frame and make a temporary greenhouse for your plants.

Personally, I'm much more interested in plants that aren't going to be fussy. On of the best advantages to saving your own seed is that the plants quickly adapt themselves to your gardening style. You don't have to be a servant to your plants whim, the plant and you reach an understanding and help eachother out. Otherwise we are at the mercy of the seed companies; the larger ones often source their seeds from climates that are very different to ours. It seems to be more like a lottery these days than a sure thing that the plants will thrive in our local area.

That said, Salt Spring Island Seeds has some seeds that you may be interested in and are locally adapted to growing on the coast here. They grow all their seeds on Salt Spring, so you know it will grow well in our area.

I also have way more of these ground cherry seeds than I need. I don't know how viable they are, but if you want some let me know. I usually go to town a couple of times a week. Maybe a few of these seeds in exchange for a few of whatever lantern style seeds you have left over?


 
Dillon Nichols
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Physalis peruviana did very well on the farm I interned on last summer, near Duncan, but it was very much a heat trap, unbelievably hot in the summer. Aside from the plants we started in a greenhouse, there were volunteers from previous years in the field. The flavour didn't please me as much as others I've had, so I'm starting with 'Aunt Molly's' Physalis peruviana from a seed co, instead of this local-ish seed.

I've seen Physalis peruviana, and the Aunt Molly's cultivar thereof, available several places, but I hadn't yet come across the other option from your link, Physalis pubescens/Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry. PFAF says zone 6, so a bit hardier than groundcherry, rated 4 for edibility, and a pineapple flavour... Definitely on my list now, thanks!

I did find that West Coast Seeds is selling Physalis alkekengi seeds, no mention of them being edible let alone tasty though...
https://www.westcoastseeds.com/shop/flower-seeds/physalis-seeds/chinese-lanterns-physalis-seeds/


Many years ago, my grandfather very nearly burned his house down using huge glass bottles of water as thermal mass in a sunroom... I intend to try dark rocks beside some of these plants, instead. Hoping they don't need to be babied much, I definitely agree that unfussy/well adapted plants are important.

Broadening the search at PFAF shows that there are a lots of relatives of these plants listed. None are rated as high for edibility as Physalis peruviana. Other than those already discussed, Physalis Philadelphica/Mexican groundcherry sounds interesting.
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Physalis+philadelphica


I'd love to swap for some of your groundcherry seeds, but I'm leaving town for a month, possibly tomorrow... The other catch is I don't actually have any lantern seeds yet! I'll get in touch when I get back.
 
Angelika Maier
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Why do you want Chinese Lantern? If PFAF does list something as barely edible it is so! Even the edible things sometimes taste terrible.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Hi Angelika;

Why do I want it, let me count the ways:
1) Tastes vary; I note that rhubarb is rated by PFAF as the same degree of edibility. I love rhubarb! It serves a valuable role in the garden and orchard shading out things which I don't like, and is delicious cooked with strawberries and served on custard, or icecream, or cake, or yogurt, or... Maybe this berry can be much improved with proper cooking.

For that matter, jostaberry is a 5, and I could take it or leave it.

II) Even if I don't like it, perhaps some future livestock like ducks might enjoy it.

C) Maybe I'll luck out and find a tasty one.

Fourthly: even if nothing save wild birds and pollinators likes it, this hardly seems like a terrible result to me, if the cost is a couple dollars worth of seed. Maybe it will keep the birds off something I prefer!

Penultimately, it should be a lovely thing to look at, since people are willing to plant it for that reason alone; this isn't at the top of my list of criteria by any means, but it doesn't hurt.

And last but not least, simple curiosity; hopefully that satisfies yours.
 
Angelika Maier
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I think horizon have it they usually have a good description on their page how to grow it. I asked this because I bought three (!) aronia plants listed as edible and they taste terrible. And I bought three (!) maqui berry plants and they taste slightly better. and I raised a bunch of sea buckthorn and the berries are tiny. At least the physalis does not take a lot of space and cost you only a seepacket. All physalis are raised as for tomatoes.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Thanks Angelika, and they even ship to Canada, for seeds. Nifty.

Buying plants without any chance to try eating them is definitely a gamble. We've got 6 Haskap that have produced an utterly pathetic amount of barely-palatable fruit; they're on probation. Beyond that, Chilean Guava, a couple Hardy Kiwi and several types of gooseberry are all gambles tastewise; hoping to taste the Chilean Guava and gooseberries this year. At least with fruit I'm hopeful that it will all be OK in a pie mixed with other things!

I've also just planted one of those Aronia Prunifolias that you're bemoaning! Ours was a named cultivar 'Nero'; is this the same one you have?

I have heard that seabuckthorn is quite variable in fruit quality; is yours a named cultivar?

This is one of the big obstacles with the harder to find plants; getting a tasty cultivar, rather than a seedling. If most apple trees sold were grown from seed, I don't think apple trees would be very popular! And yet, for many of these plants, there is substantial variation in fruit quality, but named cultivars are not yet available here. Physalis peruviana supposedly has quite a few named cultivars, with big differences, but Aunt Molly's is the only one to be found. Hardy Kiwi has a huge variety; lots are available in the states, but very few up here...


Location can really change a crop, too; Himalayan blackberry grows well on my parents land, but produces fairly unappetizing, small, seedy berries most years; not enough water, and we don't irrigate it as we have other priorities for the water, and don't want it to spread even more. Yet, on other sites nearby, it can produce an amazing bounty of delicious, juicy berries with the same lack of attention!


Nuts are even worse; it's going to be a long time, and a lot of work protecting young trees from the deer, before I find out if the yellowhorn and hardy pecan I just bought will produce on this site, and if they're any good if they do!
 
r ranson
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Great thread. I never imagined there were so many lantern style varieties. I was talking with my friend about it and she brought me some from China Town - don't know what variety, but it was tasty. My friend ate the last one before I could squirl it away for seeds. Ah well.

Having a look at the Seeds of Diversty list and they have some interesting varieties listed under Ground Cherries. I suspect they are using Ground Cherry to mean lantern like fruit stuff. Seeds of Diversity is the Canadian version of Seed Savers Exchange in the US, where they facilitate person to person seed exchange. There is a fee to have access to the catalogue but there are quite a few varieties of vegetables that aren't listed by seed companies.

Their 'ground cherry' category includes:
AUNT MOLLY Physalis pruinosa (of course)
CAPE GOOSEBERRY Physalis peruviana
COSSAK PINEAPPLE
GOLDEN Physalis pruinosa
GOLDIE Physalis pruinosa (different description from golden, I think, my french isn't good)
PURPLE Physalis ixocarpa (caught my interest.)
TOMATILLO CISINEROS

I don't know if any of these are new to you or not, but I thought it was nifty.

The downside is that they are all out of Ontario and Quebec, so I don't know how well they would grow here. The upside is that the seeds are all OP, so by saving the seeds from the plants that thrive, you could develop a line that grows well here.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Ha, interesting. Through all this I'd been under the impression that Aunt Molly's was a named cultivar of 'Physalis peruviana'. Most of the places I had seen selling it didn't include the latin name, and some specified that it was peruviana.

Instead it appears more likely to be a cultivar from Poland of 'Physalis pruinosa'. Interestingly, PFAF rates 'Pruinosa' a 3, vs 'Pruviana' at 5. Some encouragement for trying the 'less tasty' types... if this is accurate. Another named cultivar, this one apparently from Belarus, of Physalis Pruinosa: 'Yantar', apparently 'slightly better flavoured' than Aunt Molly's'.
goodmindseeds.org/catalog/peppers-other-nightshades/ (They also have some interesting nightshade berry species and tomatillos listed.)


There is a wide array of Physalis seeds on ebay, including a number of commercial seed packets of named cultivars from the Ukraine. Definitely a rabbit-hole!


I also happened on this project summary: http://portal.nifa.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0212077-goldenberry-physalis-peruviana-production-systems-for-csa-farms.html

Of particular interest:
-Their test of consumer acceptance went well, with high acceptance of 3 cultivars of Physalis pruinosa.

They state:
'Consumers show no preference for cultivars within Physalis pruinosa. These results indicate that cultivar selection of P. pruinosamay not be important with respect to consumer acceptance and preference. Cultivars may be selected based on horticultural traits that promote productivity, as the cultivars tested had similar quality attributes. A non-scientific evaluation of P. pruinosa with P. peruviana revealed that the latter may be more desireable from a quality standpoint as it has a 'fruitier' flavor profile than P. pruinosa.'

And, in line with the muddle of misnomers that seems to be prevalent:
'Selections were found to be grossly misidentified. Research to further clarify their identity will be conducted in 2015.'
 
leila hamaya
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i dont think the chinese lantern is edible? maybe a little toxic? hey i could be completely wrong, but that is what i thought. all the other members of that immediate family are edible, so maybe that is incorrect.

we have a little chinese lantern growing here, and its in a wild ish untended area and self seeds and comes back every year. this is zone 8 though.

i would try to get the pineapple tomatillo, its small but sweet =)
 
r ranson
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Wow, this rabbit hole is very deep. I had no idea there were so many kinds of lantern style fruits, or that they tasted so good. This is a great thread.

The grocery store today had some cape gooseberries (all the way from the other side of the world, I feel so guilty eating, out of season, imported food) so I brought some home to try. If they taste this good after having traveled such a long distance, I can't wait to see how they taste fresh off the vine. I saved some seeds from the nicest looking plants, curious to see how they do.

Speaking about saving seeds. My seed books all say just to wash the seeds and dry them. However, the same books say there are also fungal diseases that can be transmitted through seed. My question: Why aren't we fermenting these like tomatoes? Does it kill the seed or something?

Another interesting thing is that the books don't agree if the flowers are self fertile or not. Some say tomatillos are only outbreeders, others say they are both. Other books say that all lantern style are perfect (inbreeding) flowers, but other books disagree. I think this is going to take some actual growing to discover which is what.

The other confusion I'm having is that the common names and botanical names don't match from one source to the next.

I have seedlings just starting for Ground Cherry (from seed exchange at seedy saturday, so who knows what they actually are) and Purple tomatillo (from the Hudson Seed Library) as well as some leftover seed if you want to do a swap when you get back to town. Or maybe a lantern fruit seed swap at the end of the year. Together I bet we can discover (or if necessary create) some varieties that do well in our clime.
 
r ranson
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How about Litchi Tomatoes? It's a spiny lantern style tomato-ish plant. I found it listed under ornamental in the Seeds of Diversity exchange (edit to correct, it's listed under fruit, not ornamental - there should be a law against me typing words pre-coffee), but Mother Earth News says it's edible. Have you ever tried it?

Litchi Tomato seems to be frost hardy, I wonder if it would overwinter here. I wonder if it's close enough to other garden veg (tomato or other style lantern fruit) to cross with it and help create a more frost tolerant something. Off to order some seed and do more reading.
 
Honor Marie
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This year I am growing Aunt Molly's ground cherries and Cape Gooseberries, both from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

The berries from the cape gooseberry are much larger and the plant has a more upright habit, making them easier to harvest. Also, the cape gooseberries are staying on the plant longer, giving me a better chance to catch them before they fall to the ground and get eaten by bugs. A lot of the Aunt Molly's are dropping before they turn fully golden.

Pound for pound, the Aunt Molly's are probably producing more total fruit. They both taste pretty good, but I like the cape gooseberries better. My toddler is willing to go through the work of picking up each tiny ground cherry that falls, but for a busy adult, I'd recommend the cape gooseberries, hands down.

My other recommendation for ground cherries would be to site them in a container or raised bed that allows the berries to fall onto a dry, clean surface, rather than into some fertile buggy dirt.

I'm growing in coastal California where the weather is mild in summer (70's F and bone dry).

 
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