Rotonda Red Eggplant

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Rotonda Red Eggplant

It is small and round like an apple, bright orange in colour with green and reddish streaks: the fruits resemble tomatoes or persimmons more than eggplants. It is no accident that in the local language it is called “merlingiana a pummadora.” The Rotonda red eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) is a distant relative of the common eggplant (Solanum melongena) that arrived in Europe perhaps from India and that has got bright violet berries. The Rotonda eggplant arrived by the end of the nineteenth century, probably from Africa, maybe imported by some soldiers coming back from colonial wars.Unknown elsewhere, it is a rustic plant cultivated in every Rotonda garden and it has got a more bitter and exotic taste compared to the normal eggplants. 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 colour even hours after being cut; the aroma is fruity and intense, reminiscent of prickly pears; the flavour is spicy with a pleasantly bitter finish.The “African” red eggplant is only one of the vegetables that make Rotonda (3,000 people, about 600 metres high, fifty kilometres 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. Its peculiarity is the low content in chlorogenic acid responsible for darkening the flesh in other eggplants: this aspect makes it ideal for processing and preservation.

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Production area:Rotonda (Potenza province)

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Nominated by:Domenico Cerbino