Alchechengi – My Introduction to the Winter Cherry

It looked so promising, wrapped up like that. I actually wasn’t planning on buying any chocolate when I entered the store. I just wanted to know why there were so many people inside and what was drawing them to this corner pasticceria. Was it the coffee? There was a crowd around the bar.

As I entered the pasticceria, my eyes were drawn to the left side of the room where a long counter stacked with chocolates was.

Perhaps this was the attraction. Or at least, it was for me.

I decided to sample a few items, but the ones that immediately caught my eye were these little chocolates with pretty green-gold leaves sticking out of the top.

Wrapped Up Alchechengi

The woman behind the counter said they were filled with liquor. I am not a big fan of liquor in chocolate (though I immensely enjoy both of them separately) so I wasn’t expecting to love it, but I couldn’t resist the packaging and fell for it like a fake Prada purse on Cola di Rienzo in Rome.

Of course, I wanted to see what was inside so I bit off a small piece of the chocolate. The chocolate wasn’t that good, but the color inside was shocking. Bright orange…I was intrigued. At this point, the insides, the liquor, started to pour out. I acted quick and snapped a photo.

A Peek Inside the Alchechengi Chocolate

At this point, I took a bite into the bright orange fruit and…..

…promptly spit it out directly into the waste basket before I vomited. And being the sadist I am, I made S try his as well to see if mine was bad, and he had the same reaction. Keeping the explanation of the taste to rated PG, it tasted of a male bodily function that I hope never to see featured in a filled chocolate. We immediately brushed our teeth. Yes, it was that bad.

So now I need your help.

Have you tasted one of these before? The fruit inside was the Physalis alkekengi, (alchechengi in Italian) also known as A Winter Cherry, Chinese Lantern Plant, Strawberry Ground Cherry….?

Tell me in the comments how it tasted to you (especially if you’ve had it inside a liquor-filled chocolate), and if you’re very familiar with it, how it should taste. Unfortunately this experiment left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m not so eager to keep trying to prove myself wrong.

Help me redeem the Alchechengi! This was my last look before retiring it to my bin.

Inside the Alchechengi Chocolate

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  1. Giulia says

    “Keeping the explanation of the taste to rated PG, it tasted of a male bodily function that I hope never to see featured in a filled chocolate.”

    Hmmm, guess that expains the “white stuff” oooozing out in the second and third photos! Ha
    That’s probably why they add the liquer… too kill the taste! Ewwwwwww

  2. says

    The presentationn looks lovely…but I must say that it looks like a tomato wrapped in chocolate with a gross white substance leeking out. Can’t image it tasted good at all. Now gimme a cherry cordial and its a different story!

  3. says

    I see the fruit a lot on dishes here (actually in Como), and know lots of peeps that like them raw. I have never seen it covered in chocolate, looking quite so disgusting. haha It actually reminded me of a raw egg in that photo, with the creepy oozing white stuff. Perhaps try the fruit again plain…maybe yours were rotten.

  4. Rose in Cali says

    Thank you for giving me a laugh to start my day! This was hysterical! I can’t imagine a fruit tasting so nasty.

  5. says

    OMG Sara this is one of your funniest posts ever. I am still laughing.

    I agree with Sara in the comments, it does look like a raw egg, ick.

    All I can say is: thanks for the warning. Man, I’m not going within a 50 mile radius of those creepy things!!

  6. says

    I love those fruit (and never knew the English name for them)! You must have gotten a very, very bad one (or one prepared by a very perverted cholatier…). They normally taste like a cross between citrus and pineapple. I’m not sure I’ve ever had one dipped in chocolate (or mysterious white liquid, for that matter), but the fresh ones are truly delicious.

  7. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    Ok, via Jul and Sara we have two votes for: my experience wasn’t normal…I hope we get a few more testimonials for this poor (disgusting) fruit. :)
    @Daniele…non lo so! Che schifo, no?

    I saw these at Peck as well…if someone comes with me, I will try again? Any takers? (PS: You must bite into yours first)

  8. says

    ah! a golden gooseberry! I had one for the first time a few months ago, when I was visiting London. I too, was NOT impressed, even though I have heard that it should taste really great (and the fruit I had smelled, misleadingly, of mango and peaches).

    But there are plenty of people who LOVE it–and in fact, I have a picture of the golden gooseberries on my flickr stream, with several people (one of them a chef, who called it a “less tart cherry”) commenting and supporting the fruit.

  9. says

    I think I ate them twice in my entire life, and without liquor (thanks God, I should add at this point). I ate it in a fruit salad mix at Jamaica (a place in Pavia).

  10. says

    Than God, the ones I have tasted were quite delicious. Maybe it was the liquor that ruined it? When I first started to read this I was like: Wow! Its in chocolate….mmmm…must be yummy! Now I`m not so sure anymore
    Btw, nice blog!

  11. blegh says

    holy ba-jesus you turned my stomach with that one…sorry you had to endure that kind of pain, but thanks for sharing with the rest of us….I know to stay clear of “liquer” filled chocolates

  12. Jenny says

    I know these as Chinese Gooseberries and see them often on puddings/desserts. And I like them a lot – they’re not super-tasty, but they’re nice, in a sweet and mild way. I have no idea what the problem was with yours – maybe the liqueur was dodgy? – but please don’t give the fruit up as a bad job and refuse to try them again!

  13. says

    My mom used to grow these, and I would eat them right off the plant. They were very refreshing, not too sweet…I would put the taste somewhere between a pineapple and a cherry…

  14. says

    I’ve only ever had these in Quebec, where they’re called ground cherries. They’re related to tomatillos, which kind of makes sense when you think of it. I liked the sweet-tart flavor and gentle crunch, but I don’t think they’d be an especially good match for chocolate. However, they do make a lovely liqueur out of it in Quebec.

  15. says

    I love the relative berry called the “Cape Gooseberry”, but I have to say that the combination of chocolate and liquor sounds absolutely vile.

  16. Colleen in South Africa says

    What an awful experience. The fruit looks like a gooseberry. The Cape Gooseberry that I know is wonderful. We grow them in our garden and eat them straight from the bush. They are great in fruit salad, as garnishes for some desserts, in some sauces for fish, beef or chicken. Having said that I have never had them in chocolate and don’t intend to now :) BTW Liqueur filled chocolates are just fantastic. They are a definite yes as Christmas pressies in my country. You get the chocolate outside then a crunchy sugary layer as you bite into it and then lovely pure liqueur shoots into your mouth – cognac, whisky, cherry, peppermint, drambuie, – you name it any flavour you can think of!!! I hope you have a better experience next time you try liqueur chocolates xx

  17. Colleen in South Africa says

    Just looking again at your photos, do you know what type of liquor was in those chocolates? I wonder why there is clear and milky white liquid? Maybe two liqueurs? Or maybe it didnt mix well with the fruit and it produced some sort of by-product?? Would be interesting to know….

  18. pumpkinpie says

    These often garnish desserts here in Hong Kong. I love fruits and consider myself an optimist, so after trying many of these in all seasons I gave up. This is the one thing that remains on my plate after dessert. It cannot even redeem itself drunk and covered in chocolate.

  19. says

    I rather like alchechengi: they are tart and quite unusual-tasting, but I like them, in chocolate or not. On the other hand, if the bodily function you are referring to is the one I am also thinking about (and the one and only male bodily function that I ever tasted and hope to ever taste), I must say that I don’t mind that either, provided that the male in question is healthy and eats a decent amount of fruit and vegetables. (By the way, of your male has a too strong flavor, have him eat lots of pineapple several hours before gracing him with your graces: that can make lots of difference.)

  20. says

    I find it humorous that people tend to say things like:
    [i]”“Keeping the explanation of the taste to rated PG, it tasted of a male bodily function that I hope never to see featured in a filled chocolate.”[/i]
    but never pay attention to the fact that some of us don’t read that as something you don’t have a taste for but actually something that you have tasted before. And from what you stated it could even be taken that you like the taste of the particular male bodily function, but you just desire to not see it used in chocolate.

  21. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    Wow, lots of pros and cons on this fruit!! I am not ready to give up on it, either. I hope others try it and give us a good recount of the fruit on your own blogs! I’m pretty sure I got a bad one, for whatever reason.

    @Colleen – I’m not sure what liquor it was – I’m assuming grappa or maybe rum.
    @Typesetter – you had me laughing with your comment even if you didn’t mean to. :)

  22. says

    I know it as cape gooseberry and it has been around in my neck of the woods for a few years as the all purposed new decoration for desserts in restaurants. It’s edible and tastes fine. I always eat mine when I come across it. I recognized it as soon as I saw you chocolate photo. I don’t know why yours tasted so horrible. Perhaps it was fermented in some way.

  23. says

    Sara, judging by the comments it looks like you might have gotten a bad seed. Apparently it should taste better it seems… I’d be willing to try it with you and take the first bite, I trust your readers and I’m feeling adventurous… do you think they have them in Florence?

  24. says

    The appearance is explainable. When they make the chocolates, they make them with a solid containing at least sugar and the liquor with other things. Once enrobed in the chocolate, a reaction takes place that makes the fondant go liquid.

    I cannot explain the fruit. I am hopeful that the yea sayers are right about it.

  25. says

    I second what the other just said, you must have gotten a really bad one. We absolutely love Physalis (how they are called in Germany) and I often dip them in chocolate to use them as a dessert decoration. You should give them another try ;)

  26. LeLapine says

    The fruit can be really good, it’s different where it grow. Last week, I buy some from California and they taste awful. So, give them another chance, they can be really good.

  27. Sangeeta says

    I’ve had these very often. It’s very popular when serving desserts in hotels such as Sheraton and Marriott. The softer ones taste the best with chocolate, NOT with liquor, it sort of brings out the worst in the fruit in my opinion. It’s typically served with a chocolate topping and I absolutely love it. You should try it a few times, in order for you to like the taste. Chocolate from the fountain with these gooseberries are a splendid combination.

  28. says

    I worked on an organic farm in northwest Italy, near Turin, and we grew these. They aren’t great just picked, but definitely not disgusting. However, when made into a jam, it is the best thing I have ever tasted in my life. With a little piece of cheese, yeah I know it sounds weird, but really amazing!

  29. Marama says

    These used to grow wild around my school in the north of New Zealand (called Cape Gooseberries here – Chinese gooseberries are another name for Kiwi fruit to us). I was never a huge fan but we all ate them straight off the bushes when they were ripe enough- quite orangey.
    My mum has a bush at the back of her house and we don’t tend to eat very many but if you leave them the fruit rots away quite fast and you’re left with a beautiful little lantern shape, which eventually becomes skeletonized.

  30. Guest says

    This sounds a very ill-judged and bad post about this lovely cherry.
    I assume the inspiration sourced by the red cherry dipped in liquor and wrapped with chocolate, has too much strong flavour and pheraps is heavy and unbalanced, drowned in a saddening liquor: MON CHÉRI (mon schifì) . This fruit instead, (if you pay attention using it fresh as a lemon -wich keeps the same tasty acidity- and with just a touch of good liquor) resembles a tropical sweet and acidic little orange tomato with a flesh like a fibrous jam, that its sunny and mild marmalade taste goes well in weddings with an envelope of pure chocolate shell balancing its tart, dark and greedy exotic bouquet . in italian: E’ la sua morte.

  31. Guest says

    P.s. To change opinion Try a marmalade of this fruit used on slices or pasta frolla, or try it without liquor dipped in pure sweet chocolate accompanied to a banana mousse or upon a small banana or passion fruit gelly-tart, instead of liquor use a coffe sauce.

  32. nashii says

    whoah that looked like raw chicken eggs not ready to be born.
    trust me- i have experience.
    liquor is a big nono for me anyway
    a friend of mine gave me a box of chocolates w/ liquor and i couldnt even open the box.

  33. ?Carol says

    Fantastic physallis. I could eat a whole bag of them. I even grew a vine in my glass house. Give them another try.

  34. Matt says

    We had them in tuscany covered in chocolate and they were devine. I have been looking for them ever since. I have never seen them in australia but would love to!

  35. Sparkina says

    Cape gooseberries! (I call them lanternberries cuz the husks they’re in look like paper party lanterns). I’ve had them (fresh, right out of the carton) and they were divinely tasty. Never had ’em as a candy, though, just straight up from the carton. (I polished off TWO CARTONS of the things in one day, that’s how scrumptious they were

  36. Lavinia says

    I have tried them in a restaurant and they are absolutely delicious and I have grown them from seed. I have one beautiful plane at the moment which I cant wait to eat. The once I have eaten in the past were lovely and sweet.

  37. GQH says

    Just had one covered in chocolate at Eurochocolate in Perugia. While I can see that the fruit would taste that way if spoiled, the one we had was great, predominantly tasted of citrus.

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