Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Basilicata's strange fruits

-Senti, do you know this crop? I shouted to my toothless neighbour and handed him a solid, round, shiny and red vegetable or fruit.

After a lifetime as contadino the neighbour takes great pride in knowing all aspects of agriculture, and he is deeply interested in all questions regarding what to grow where and how.

The present vegetable was a present from the cook and owner of the restaurant Il Tempo Perso in Rotonda. Rotonda has a special micro climate and unique soil, and therefore they are able to grow a red and round eggplant.

The red eggplant originates in Africa, and it is the size of an apple, but similar to a tomato in shape and color. Consequently, the italian name is melanzana rossa or melanzana a pomodoro. Botanically the red eggplant is unrelated to the more ordinary purple eggplant, which came to Europe from India, but the taste and preparations are alike, although residents in southern Basilicata think the red eggplant has a stronger and more exotic taste.

All this is unknown to my neighbour, who studies the red vegetable intensely and discusses it with his wife, who brings forth a knife so that they can take a closer look at the flesh and the seeds. Still, they find the crop intriguing strange, and after having been told the story, they decide to dry out the seeds to see of they can make them grow. So perhaps, we will not have to go to Pollino this year to taste the extraordinary melanzana rossa.

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