Solanum melongena (or what we, the Kiwi's and the Yanks call eggplant) is an interesting species of nightshade, thus related to the tomato and the potato. It is a yum addition to the summer menu, and though we have lost many of our plants to fusarium this year, the long asian variety is doing very well!
Plant historians tell us eggplant has been grown in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory, with the first known written record of the plant in a Chinese agricultural treatise completed in AD544. Evidently it was introduced to Europe through the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages, but was unrecorded in England until the 16th century.
An English botany book in 1597 quaintly stated: "This plant groweth in Egypt almost everywhere... bringing forth fruit of the bigness of a great cucumber.... We have had the same in our London gardens, where it hath borne flowers, but the winter approaching before the time of ripening, it perished: nothwithstanding it came to bear fruit of the bigness of a goose egg one extraordinary temperate year... but never to the full ripeness." The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, by John Gerarde, year 1597 p.274
The eggplant has a special place in folklore. In 13th-century Italian traditional folklore, the eggplant can cause insanity. In 19th-century Egypt, insanity was said to be "more common and more violent" when the eggplant is in season in the summer.
Some of our kids would say that anyone who eats eggplant must already be mad... But they do eat it sliced and crumbed in seasoned breadcrumbs. By the way, these crumbed slices make a great layer added into a lasagne. And then there is:
Desley's Baba Ganoush
1-2 lemons juiced
1 Tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic (opt.)
1 tsp olive oil (opt.)
1/2 tsp salt
Pierce eggplant with a knife several times, then bake in a moderate oven until tender (approx 45mins).
Scoop our the eggplant flesh and blend with lemon juice, tahini, garlic and oil until smooth.
Season with salt adding more or less to taste.
This dip can be frozen in portions and defrosted and re-blended before use.