It is a variety native to Africa, of the genus Solanum aethiopicum, which is called “Bitter Eggplant” or more rarely “Ethiopian Eggplant”. The fruits are eaten fresh, boiled, steamed, marinated or cooked with meat or other vegetables. Unlike the “classic” Aubergines (Solanum melongena) that we are used to in Europe, their leaves can also be eaten as a leafy vegetable such as spinach.
The bitter eggplant occupies an important place in the diet in Africa, especially in tropical Africa, where it is said to be the third vegetable consumed after the onion and tomato. There are several dozen varieties that are traditionally grown, including the ‘Stiped Togo’ variety which has the particularity of also having a very decorative appearance, with its zebra colors. In addition, due to ignorance of African gastronomy, many sources simply promote it as an ornamental plant!
This vegetable plant is now widely cultivated on the African continent, as well as in Brazil, where it ended up through the slave trade at the time of colonization. In France, this aubergine, which is both a fruiting vegetable and a leafy vegetable, is still completely unknown, despite its many qualities absent from our stalls and vegetable gardens.
Growing Eggplant ‘Striped Togo’?
Of the Solanaceae family, close to eggplant, tomato and pepper, it is a perennial in its native environment, but is grown more as an annual in our latitudes. With its upright habit, this plant can grow to 1.5 meters in season. Keep in mind that the Solanum aethiopicum species needs sun and heat for quite a long period of time, if you have the opportunity to grow it in a greenhouse, otherwise sow indoors fairly early (around February-March) in a warm place ( 20-25°C). C) to transplant them after the last frost at an already somewhat advanced stage (the seedlings should ideally be 20-25 cm). Its cultivation in pots or trays, on a terrace or balcony is quite possible.
How to harvest and consume the fruit of this variety?
Unlike the “classic” eggplant, the fruit can be consumed at a more advanced stage of ripening, but the ripening brings with it a bitter taste that our European taste buds generally find unpleasant, so we recommend that you leave the fruit harvest and consume at a young stage, before the orange color appears and becomes uniform. The fruit of the ‘Striped Togo’ variety is more or less oblong ovoid, terminating in a point, 7 to 8 cm long and 2-3 cm in diameter, the orange-yellow epidermis with green stripes that turns evenly orange when fully ripe.
It is a variety with good productivity, each plant yields between 30 and 40 fruits on average. The fruit remains very good after picking. In the kitchen it can be used in the form of pickles as an aperitif, or for making sauces. The fruits can be eaten raw, cooked, baked or in soup. Many traditional African recipes can be found online, and they are also great just grilled or baked with other vegetables. Their taste lends itself well to spicy dishes. The taste is strong with a delicious, slightly bitter taste. Finally, surprisingly to us Europeans, the young leaves of the African aubergine are also perfectly edible and can be cooked like spinach, or in stews.
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