Chinese Lanterns Or Tomatoes?????????? - Knowledgebase Question

Falcon Heights, MN
Avatar for rachelberger
Question by rachelberger
September 30, 2000
I started my Chinese Lanterns from seed this spring. I have planted them in our garden and watched them grow all summer. They form lanterns with a green tomato or Tomatillo looking fruit on the inside. They get too heavy and fall or break because of these green tomato looking fruit. So far none of them have turned orange as they are supposed to and the tomato like fruit stay intact with the plant. Will the tomatoes fall out? Will these eventually turn orange and look like they are supposed to? How am I supposed to support this sprawling plant so it can grow? Did I somehow end up with the wrong seeds/ version of this plant? Is this an annual or a perennial? Please help


Answer from NGA
September 30, 2000
Tomatillos are indeed related to Chinese Lanterns, and both plants sprawl in an untidy fashion as you described. For both, a flower part called a "calyx" becomes enlarged as a loose, papery husk. They are from the same genus, but are different species.Physalis alkekengi
(Chinese lantern) is a perennial plant which is grown for its decorative bright orange,
"lanterns." The lantern is actually the calyx which forms around the ripened berry as the
loose, papery lantern. It is an ornamental plant, not edible.

Physalis ixocarpa (tomatillo, pronounced tom a teeyo) is an annual plant grown for its
edible fruits. The fruit usually swells to fill the papery calyx, which is removed before
cooking. It's usually picked when green and tart and used frequently in Mexican food. It
can also be picked when yellow to purple colored, when it is much sweeter.

Good luck with your Chinese lanterns!

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