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Wild eggplant is independently distinguishable from domesticated eggplant because of the nature in which it grows and the size of its berries. Each fruit is spherical and the size of enlarged peas. Its coloring is green when young then matures to a yellow to orange hue. Most commonly it is utilized for culinary purposes when in its immature and green stage though it can also be used once fully matured. Wild eggplant grows in clusters on branched vines with heavily lobed leafy foliage. Its foliage a signal to its wild nature: thorny and prickly, defending against natural predators. The fruit is considered the only edible part of the plant. Wild eggplant has a seedy flesh and jelly-like texture. Its bitterness heavily pronounced, often considered barely palatable, as it isn't cultivated.
Wild eggplant is available during the summer months.
Wild eggplant, botanically known as Solanum torvum, is classified as an evergreen shrub and member of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, along with the tomato and the potato. Solanum is one of the ten most species-rich genera of flowering plants, containing approximately 1400 species. Wild eggplant has many common names including Turkey berry, Gully-bean, Pea eggplant, Thai eggplant, Cluster eggplant and Devil's fig. Though it is botanically a food plant, it is also considered a noxious weed in many areas.
Wild eggplant has long been sought after in folk medicine for its healing properties and versatile medicinal uses. It is known to have anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In India the Wild eggplant is believed to aid in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders as well as respiratory diseases. In Africa the fruit is used in treatment of skin infections and abscesses.
At the most primitive and basic level, Wild eggplants are great for adding to complex, rich and spicy sauces as when cooked they become soft and soak up the sauce like natural sponges. Rich, spicy and flavorful sauces will also balance out the bitter flavor these petite eggplants are known for. Regardless of size, Wild eggplant can be as versatile as their cultivated counterparts. Applications range from grilling, shallow and deep frying, baking, pureeing, stewing, braising and pickling. Wild eggplant’s overall culinary companions are other members of the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, both sweet and hot. The fruit also pairs well with legumes, grains, garlic, onions, curries, chiles, cardamom, cumin and herbs such as basil, epazote and cilantro. To store, keep Wild eggplants in a cool dry place and use within two to three days.
Wild eggplant is commonly used in Cambodian cuisine as an addition to stews. In Thailand Wild eggplant is a popular home garden plant and is also known as Makhua Phuang. Though in many places it is known by the name, Thai eggplant in reality the Wild eggplant is only relatively new to Thailand.
All eggplants can trace their wild heritage to Africa, though cultivated plants are a distinctly different species from their wild progenitors. Wild eggplants occur on all continents except for Antarctica and can be found in a wide variety of habitats from deserts to mountain slopes, particularly throughout Mexico to Peru and Venezuela. Wild eggplant is also commonly used as rootstock for grafting domesticated eggplant species as well as for tomato species to improve disease resistance in areas where bacterial wilt is prevalent. Though it is overall recommended to not cultivate Wild eggplant independently, it has been and is currently being researched for the utilization of cross breading with domestic eggplant species.
Recipes that include Foraged Eggplant. One is easiest, three is harder.
|David Lebovitz||Thai Green Curry|
|Lite Bite||A Turkey Berry and Three Tangy Curries|