Brinjal, Aubergine, Eggplant, all names interchangeable for members of the plant family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades), genus Solanum, and native to Africa and Asia. The fruits grow up to half a meter in length and can weigh over 1kg. These fruits (actually berries), may be black, purple, green, white, striped, and sometimes even red. Eggplants come in many shapes, sizes and colours. But how did it get its name Eggplant?
Late in the 1500s British traders introduced London’s greengrocers to a strange new vegetable they’d picked up along the coast of West Africa. By 1587 this so-called “Guinea squash” was on English dinner tables. Although eaten as a vegetable, it was actually a small fruit about the size of a hen’s egg. It was also the same colour as a hen’s egg. This pure white ellipsoid made an eye-catching edible, which for obvious reasons the public soon dubbed “eggplant.”
At roughly the same time another vegetable also appeared in Britain. This one had fruits nothing like eggs. They were much larger, deep purple in colour, and irregularly mis-shapen. For all their differences, though, the two plants were botanically related (members of the plant family Solanaceae) and shared common culinary characteristics.
For a while both were used. Eventually, however, the Guinea squash lost its toehold, and fell out of Western cuisine. The newcomer, on the other hand, not only survived but also took over its predecessor’s felicitous name. This is how a purplish blob, looking like no egg, came to be misnamed “eggplant.” The interloper that stole an African plant’s good name hailed from Asia, where it has been cultivated more than 4,000 years. … Click here to read more.
In South Africa , we also have a variety of the Solanaceae family. The most common is the bitter apple or solanum incanum, very simmilar visually to the Thai eggplant. At Wickedfood Earth we even have the two species growing within 50m of each other, the Thai eggplant cultivated, while the bitter apple grows naturally.
Eggplant very often has the bitterness to it. At Wickedfood Cooking school we have found that soaking it in salted water, once it has been peeled and sliced, extracts most of the bitter juices. Before cooking, gently squeeze out as much water as possible. This also stops the eggplant from a absorbing excessive oil when frying.
Wickedfood Cooking School in Johannesburg runs cooking classes throughout the year at its purpose-built Johannesburg cooking studio. Cookery classes are run in the mornings and evenings 7 days a week (subject to a minimum of 12 people). This Team building venue is also popular for corporate events and private functions – teambuilding cooking classes, birthdays, kitchen teas, and dinner parties with a difference. Our cooking lessons are hands-on, where every person gets to participate in the preparation of the dishes. They are also a lot of fun where you not only learn new skills, but get to meet people with similar interests. For corporate groups and team building cooking classes these events are a novel way of creating staff interaction or entertaining clients.