July and August are the incandescent center of the year, the period in which the heat of the sun brings all the chemical transformations inside the fruit to full speed. It is the time of year in which to harvest and enjoy, in which the juiciness of seasonal fruits and vegetables quenches the thirst.
A plant of the Solanaceae family which in this period offers its berries covered with a very beautiful chalice, similar to crepe paper lanterns, is the alchechengi, which for these reasons is often cultivated for ornamental purposes.
The other plant we will describe is the ancient dogwood, whose fruits, appreciated by both humans and animals, ripen towards the end of August and still today they can be found in some woods or on the counters of some shop in the form of jam.
The alchechengi: lanterns to savor
The alchechengi (Physalis alkekengi) is now mainly used for ornamental reasons: the reddish goblets of orange-red petals closed like a lantern around the berry aesthetically enhance any balcony or garden, especially when the goblet decomposes leaving the perforated structure.
The small fruit of the alchechengi (from the Arabic al-kakang or "Chinese lantern") enclosed in such beauty is often ignored by most, but in reality it is a full-blown food, with significant health benefits.
It can be eaten fresh or dried, and contains:
- physalina (with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties),
- etilcaffeato (important anti-inflammatory that can help the liver),
- vitamin C (almost twice as much as lemon),
It is therefore useful as a vitamin replenisher, acts against diarrhea, has diuretic, purifying, mildly sedative virtues, is recommended for soothe urinary tract stones.
The flavor has a marked aftermath acre, due to vitamins, tannins and some alkaloids contained; in Japan, its country of origin, it is consumed alone or added to salads.
Try these tasty recipes with alchechengi
The dogwood plant
The name of the plant and of the entire family derives from the Latin cornus, which well describes the quality of the its wood, cultivated precisely for its hardness and resistance.
It is a small tree that hardly reaches or exceeds five meters. It is a very long-lived plant, sometimes over a hundred years old and used already in ancient times, especially for wood.
Its food use now belongs almost exclusively to the past, before the great spread of citrus fruits, when fruits rich in vitamin C were an invaluable asset for fighting dysentery. Today it is still widely used in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, especially in Bulgaria, Hungary, Armenia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
In the country it is not very widespread, sometimes it can be found in some gardens, in the sparse woods below 1300 meters, or along the ditches and canals in the less traveled countryside. There bark grayish is reported as ingredient of some herbal remedies: decoctions are made useful against malaise, weakness and fever.
With pleasant yellow flowers the plant produces some drupe ovoidali, the corniole: they are fruits that when ripe they expose a typical coral red, already sung in ancient times and found even in the Odyssey, where Homer describes it as food for both men and animals.
It can be eaten fresh and his sour taste it is somewhat reminiscent of sour cherry and cranberry, but is generally transformed into jam or is used to make wines and grappas. The fruit must be picked when fully ripe, when it detaches by itself without resistance and if kept at refrigerator temperature it can go on until December, while at room temperature it can be kept for no more than a couple of weeks.
The high content of vitamin C, malic acid, mucilage, and tannins they give it astringent, antidiarrheal, febrifugal, diuretic, toning properties.
The dried fruits retain the same virtues and are used abundantly in traditional Arabic and Chinese medicines.