Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant, guinea squash, melanzana..
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Alas, despite being cloaked in a glossy purple, regal exterior, the eggplant belies Shakespeare’s adage by collapsing into a colorless, stringy amorphous mess when cooked. Little wonder that many blanch at the sight of limp, congealed offerings and never learn to appreciate the lusciously mild, creamy flesh that begs to be flavored with exotic spices.
A member of the nightshade family ( Solanaceae ), the seeds of an eggplant have a bitter taste, being loaded with nicotinic alkaloids as does its close relative tobacco. Folk wisdom dictates that “male” eggplants have fewer seeds than “female” eggplants. According to one source, “To sex an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. If it’s shallow and round, it’s a male.” That description gives new meaning to the phrase “food porn”.
Is it true that the female of the species is more bitter than the male? To get to the botanical bottom of all this, and for step-by-step instructions to make Baingan bharta, a roasted eggplant spread, visit madamescientist.