Toma­toes and egg­plant...


Toma­toes and egg­plant grow to­gether like love and mar­riage

Toma­toes and egg­plant are two of the most gen­er­ous and de­pend­able crops in a sum­mer veg­etable gar­den – and with­out much ef­fort you could pro­duce colours, flavours and shapes rarely found on su­per­mar­ket shelves.

“The scent of a freshly picked tomato is one of the most evoca­tive on earth, laden with sun­shine and sum­mer, the gen­eros­ity of the soil and the prom­ise of de­li­cious plea­sure,” writes Marita van der Vyfer in her book Sum­mer Food in Provence.

The egg­plant re­ceives just as much lyri­cal at­ten­tion from food writer Nigel Slater in Ten­der:A Cook and his Veg­etable Patch: “The aubergine se­duces. No other veg­etable can of­fer flesh so soft, silken and ten­der. I fell in love at first taste.”

Although the tomato orig­i­nally came from South Amer­ica and the egg­plant from the East, both be­long to the Solanum genus. And, just like fam­ily mem­bers who don’t see each other of­ten, they’re crazy about each other. The sweet-sour flavour of toma­toes em­braces the silky soft tex­ture of egg­plant, and then they dance in time to­gether in ev­ery­thing from a South African chut­ney to a French rata­touille and a Greek mous­saka.

Yet, un­til as re­cently as the 19th cen­tury, both part­ners in this happy two­some were re­garded as some­thing best avoided. Pos­si­bly be­cause of its con­nec­tion to the night­shade fam­ily, the egg­plant was known as the “mad ap­ple” and, apart from the fact that the sharp smell of tomato leaves and stems caused peo­ple to give the plant a wide berth, a French botanist also gave it a Latin name that trans­lates as “wolf peach”. Both were, how­ever, grown as or­na­men­tal gar­den plants for their at­trac­tive­ness.

Later, the po­modoro, or “golden ap­ple”, be­came a main­stay of Ital­ian cui­sine, and the French made the pomme d’amour, or “love ap­ple”, the star of just about ev­ery dish. Of course, to this day Americans still can’t de­cide wether they’re us­ing to-may-toes or to-mah-toes in their ketchup.

When you com­pare the flavour and tex­ture of home-grown toma­toes or egg­plant to those bought in the shops, it’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve they are the same fruits. And the range of va­ri­eties, shapes, colours, flavours and tex­tures is so much wider and health­ier when you grow them your­self.

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