Other names: chieh tse, nasubi, aubergine, berenjena
Availability: All year.
Source: Mexico and the United States.
Handling Tips: 45-55° F. Sprinkle occasionally. Do not chill
General Information: The eggplant is a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family to it is akin to the potato, tomato as well as the tomatillo and chayote. Although we use the eggplant as a vegetable it is really a fruit. Distinguished by its light, bright or neon purple color, the Chinese eggplant has a thin, tender skin and is sweeter than most darker varieties. Compared to the familiar American eggplant, Chinese eggplants have thinner skins, a more delicate flavor, and not as many of the seeds that tend to make eggplants bitter.
Applications: With such a long culinary evolution eggplant uses are many and include, grilling, frying, baking or stewing and dips. The practice of "breading" keeps the spongy fruit from absorbing too much oil when fried.
Eggplants make a very good meat substitute for vegetarian cooking.
History: The eggplant is native to India and Pakistan and was first domesticated over 4000 years ago. The fruit was introduced to China around 500 B.C. The Chinese hybridized their own varieties of different shaped and colored eggplants.
The migration of the eggplant continued in the 9-12th centuries to the Middle East and westward to Egypt. The moors introduced the eggplant to the Spaniards and the fruit became popular all over Europe. The Spaniards thought the eggplant was an aphrodisiac and referred to as "Berengenas" or "The Apple of Love". This of course added greatly to the popularity of the unusual fruit.
The English actually gave the fruit the name of "eggplant" referring one one varieties shape which was similar to an egg. To much of Europe the eggplant is referred to as an "aubergine" and Italy it is called melanzana.