Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Eggplant (Solanum melongena)

Though I don't usually eat it, I find the talong or eggplant to be thoroughly engaging and comical. The long shiny versions always reminded me of policemen's batutas in old Pinoy comedy sitcoms, or long cartoon noses. The short ones are just really cute, and, well... eggish (hence the name).

The area of origin of eggplant is debated (most say India), but it definitely found its way to Southeast Asia through China. As for the rest of the world, Arab and Persian traders took it to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions during the Middle Ages. The Moors probably then lugged it to Spain, from where it spread throughout Europe.

The pre-domesticated version was probably a spiny plant, with small bitter fruit (yes, it's one of those veggies which is really a fruit). It is, like the tomato, part of the largely poisonous nightshade family. No worries, though, the only sign of poison that eggplants exhibit is, as far as I know, the itchy tongue.

My adventure with eggplant had several futile beginnings throughout a few years, when I would take ready-looking seeds from particularly mature ones we were serving at home. I was never successful in growing them. So I took the easy way by buying three organic seedlings at the TESDA market one weekend. After a few months, it bore surprise fruit-- not the Filipino slender purple ones, but short green-and-white Thai ones! How adorable.

Being quite a dolt and unfamiliar with the non-purple varieties, I first waited for them to "ripen" into a wonderful yellow, only to find out that they were too tough to eat by then. The rest of my paltry yield was harvested appropriately, placed on the kitchen counter and probably mixed in some dish I didn't get to eat.

Start eggplants in a pot or in the ground, with compost-rich soil. Remember to cut your harvest instead of pulling, as it is quite difficult. Also they say that snipping eggplants before they are at their peak invites more fruiting. Get your little brothers to pee on your plant once in awhile for some nitrogen-- just at the base a.

About that overly mature yellow one, it didn't go to waste... Here are the seedlings I've just started up:


Ginny said...

Hi Bea,

Nice to know that we can see and gather tips from you here about your gardening. After I started my little herb garden, my helpers at home got so excited. Now my cook has planted ginger, green onions, camote and potatoes. Not only is gardening therapeutic but it can be really contagious. take care.

Bea said...

Thanks Ginny!

That's great about your helpers. Nothing like fresh stuff! Let me know how your garden is going too

Do you wanna post also? :)