Red aubergines – Basilicata’s strange fruits
In Rotonda, special micro climate and unique soil enable farmers to grow red aubergines originating in Africa.
-Senti, do you know this crop? I shouted to my toothless neighbour and handed him a solid, round, shiny, red vegetable.
After a lifetime as contadino cultivating crops like olives, capers,and lemons, 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.
From Africa to Rotonda
The present vegetable was a present from the cook and owner of the restaurant Il Tempo Perso in Rotonda in Basilicata. Rotonda in the Pollino national park has a special micro climate and unique soil, and therefore they are able to grow a red and round eggplant.
Red aubergines originate 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.
Red Aubergines Won’t Grow Anywhere Else
All this is unknown to my neighbour, who studies the red aubergine 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 and strange. And after having been told the story, they decide to dry out the seeds to see of they can make them grow.
We had hoped, we would not have to go to Pollino to taste the extraordinary melanzana rossa, but as we had been told by the people in Rotonda, red aubergines won’t grow anywhere else. At least not in Puglia.