Chinese Lantern (physalis alkekengi) is a truly fascinating plant. First, there are little white flowers. Then, in late summer, they develop into fruits, protected by larger, papery pods – green at first, but later becoming bright orange, perfectly resembling little Chinese Lanterns! Inside is a perfect, red berry…
When the lanterns have received their full colouring you can easily cut them and bring them indoors – they keep their colour for a long time and are very pretty in autumn arrangements – or for Halloween.
The berries are edible when ripe, and contain more vitamin c than lemons! They don’t taste very good by themselves (they’re very sour), but can be used for jams and jellies.
This highly ornamental plant can be successfully grown in the shade or in sunny spots. In fact, they are aggressive spreaders, so it’s best to grow them in a container if you don’t want the entire garden to be taken over (or if you have a balcony)! They like moist soil, so watering is necessary in dry times or climates.
Only the ripe berries can be eaten. The rest of the plant, especially the leaves and unripe berries, is very poisonous!!! It contains solanine, the same stuff that makes green potatoes and tomato leaves toxic.
So.. I guess you’ll have to be a bit careful with this pretty plant in your garden – especially with little kids around!