Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is one of the few economic plants of the family Solanaceae native to the Eastern Hemisphere. Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) all originated on this side of the globe. That must be why eggplant is featured in 99% of the Iraqi recipes you find online. The blossoms resemble their cousins, the Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamera) that grow as lovely weeds in our own garden.
The nightshades (Family Solanaceae) -- notes Wikipedia -- are a family of dicots, many of which are edible, while others are considered poisonous. The family includes the datura, eggplant, mandrake, nightshade, potato, tobacco, tomato and petunia.
That barely breaks the surface of the world-shaking importance -- from an anthropocentric point of view -- of this plant family that has fed us, poisoned us and lent us nicotine highs and lows for centuries. Just the list of genera tells a zillion tales.
Take the tomato. Like eggplant, it's a fruit (vs. potatoes, for example, which are fleshy underground stems called tubers). But for tax purposes, it's a vegetable. Doesn't that tell you all you need to know about excessive government?:
In Nix vs Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893), Justice Gray wrote, "Botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruits of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people . . . all these are vegetables, which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with or after the soup, fish or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert ." The court rejected the botanical truth that the tomato is in fact a monstrously sized berry, and deferred to the culinary vernacular of vegetable to describe it. Thus is tax yet paid on imported tomatoes.
And that doesn't even get into the early years in Europe when this exotic species was feared for its poisonous qualities:
Northern cultures associated the tomato plant with poisonous members of the Solanaceae family, specifically henbane, mandrake and deadly nightshade, which bore morphological resemblance.
But we digress. This is supposed to be about eggplant, the featured veggie (really a fruit) of our planned feast in honor of the Iraqi elections tomorrow. As Drudge says, developing . . .