Some old tales blame eggplant for causing insanity! Is it because its Italian name, melanzane, means “crazy apple”? These threads of folklore possibly derive from the fact that the curious eggplant, as a member of the solanaceae (meaning “nightshade”) species of plant, was associated with darkness, and hence, the possible loss of mental acuity. Or, maybe it was the eggplant’s delicious versatility and nutritious qualities that made people go crazy for the many ways to enjoy it!
Like the artichoke, the eggplant is a fruit, botanically classified as a berry. The rind is traditionally purple or “aubergine” and sometimes white in color. Eggplant is native to Asian and Middle Eastern regions of the world, where it is grown in sub-tropical to tropical climates and uniquely prepared in a variety of ways.
For Italians, however, Melanzane alla Parmigiana (eggplant parmesan) is as close to comfort food as one can get. Generous slices of eggplant---dredged in flour or bread crumbs, then fried to crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside consistency, and finally layered with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and baked in the oven until gooey and bubbly--- never fails to make even the most picky gourmet, swoon!
Since eggplant, alone, has a neutral taste, it takes on the flavors of other foods, while cooking. Vegetarians often rely on eggplant as a popular substitute for meat.
We offer it here, in jarred quantities imported directly from Italy, for your most delectable antipasto platters, rustic sandwiches, warmed and tossed into salads or pasta or finely minced and added to stuffings.