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Hairy eggplants grow in small clusters on a stout, vining perennial bush that reaches heights of just over one meter. The stems, leaves, and branches are covered in a fine layer of prickly hair, much like the fruits themselves. The small round eggplants first appear green, but then ripen to a yellowish- orange color and are approximately 1.5-2 centimeters in diameter. The inner pulp is pleasantly floral and tangy with a seedy texture that gives it a crunchy bite that pops. Although we may treat eggplants like a vegetable, many East Asian cultures would call the Hairy eggplant a fruit due to its sweet and sour passion fruit-like flavor.
The Hairy eggplant is available sporadically year-round in its native tropical climates.
The Hairy eggplant is a member of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family and botanically classified as Solanum stramonifolium. It is a tropical Southeast Asian native that is also known as Sour eggplant in English as well as a host of aliases in other native languages, including: Coconilla, Bura-Bura, Bolo maka, Cocochat, Pupu, Tupido, Pimpla and Tupirito. The small hairy fruits are sometimes seen in markets cleaned of their spiny exterior, or even as a frozen product in ethnic grocery stores.
Hairy eggplant may be eaten raw by themselves or cooked in dishes to add a touch of piquant sweet and sourness. The thin exterior skin is edible once the “hairy” layer is shaved off but most recipes call for just the juicy, seedy pulp. Much like one would use passion fruit, simply slice the fruits in half and squeeze or scoop out the inner flesh. Hairy eggplant is often used as a finishing condiment and paired with nam prik kapi (shrimp paste 'dip'). Its sweet and sour flavor profile also compliments curries rich in coconut milk or a simple plate of rice.
In Suriname, the Hairy eggplant is used for splenic trouble and both the fruits and leaves are used to stimulate the urine discharge.
Origins of the Hairy eggplant have been traced to the West Indies, but the plant has since been naturalized throughout most of Southeast Asia. The plants have even become prolific in everyday front-yard gardens. They require full-sun and moist soils in climates where temperatures stay well above freezing, as the plants are extremely frost tender. New varieties of Hairy eggplant have been developed that have thorn free vines and leaves and therefor easier to handle.
Recipes that include Hairy Eggplant. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Eating Asia||Hairy Eggplant Condiment|