Red Eggplant from Rotonda

Red Eggplant from Rotonda

Yesterday in my vegetable shop I found a strange red eggplant. I read “ melanzane rosse di Rotonda ( Basilicata, Potenza).

Even if I go on holiday in Basilicata from a long time (in  Acquafredda di Maratea, a magic place in the Tirrenian sea) I never seen before this vegetable.

It is small and round like an apple, bright orange in color with green and reddish streaks: the fruits resemble tomatoes more than eggplants. In read that in the local language it is called “merlingiana a pummadora.” The Rotonda red eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) is very different from the common eggplant that arrived in Europe probably from India and that has got bright violet berries. The Red  eggplant arrived by the end of the nineteenth century  from Africa, maybe imported by soldiers coming back from colonial wars. I took information about this vegetable. It is a rural plant, cultivated in all vegetable gardens in Rotonda (4,000 people, about 600 meters high, fifty kilometers from Maratea sea), in the National Park of Pollino, at a height of about 500-600 meters above sea-level,
The small plants are bedded out in May and the first harvest takes place in August and it continues until cold weather sets in.
There are also peculiar methods for preservation: the small eggplants are “nzertate”, that is tied up in bunches like peppers and small tomatoes and left to dry under roofing.

It is eaten in oil or in vinegar, hardly ever just picked; also leaves are appreciated, they are soft and different in size and shape from those of the ordinary eggplant.

Their pulp is fleshy and retains its creamy color even hours after being cut; the aroma is fruity and intense, reminiscent of prickly pears; the flavor is spicy with a pleasantly bitter finish.
The “African” red eggplant is only one of the vegetables that make Rotonda (4,000 people, about 600 meters high, fifty kilometers from Maratea sea) a small capital city for traditional horticulture, embedded in a unique environmental context: the Pollino National Park, the largest protected area of our country.

I bought the red eggplants and  I have experienced two different recipes

Melanzane rosse di Rotanda a funghetto

extra virgin olive oil

Preparation: Wash your eggplant, cut into cubes and place them in a colander with a handful of salt. Cover with a plate and a weight on top and let loose their water for at least an hour.
After this time rinse and squeeze them. In a pan fry a sliced ​​onion and a clove of garlic then rise early, pour the eggplant and cook for a few minutes over medium heat stirring occasionally. Add the diced tomatoes and continue cooking for up to twenty minutes. Garnish with a few leaves of basil.

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