Like bell peppers, tomatoes, and peppers, eggplants ("talong" in Tagalog) are a member of the deadly nightshade family. Some sources site its ancestral roots as Africa, others say India and Pakistan. Similar to tofu, eggplants are a virtual food chameleon, able to take on a hundred different flavors.
California-grown Filipino eggplants at Berkeley Bowl!
Perhaps the most unforgettable eggplant I have tasted was from my mother's province of Pangasinan, where the eggplants were roasted over wood that had been burned down to glowing coals in an outdoor clay oven. The skin was charred and peeled away. The tender flesh within was infused with a smoky flavor that later mingled with a rich coconut sauce.
Got purple? Even more varieties of eggplant: Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian...
While best known for their deep, glossy purple skin, you can look for eggplants in light jade to mottled white, and a variety of shapes and sizes, and with subtle differences in taste, texture and adaptability to recipes.
Pinakbet - one of my favorites, a marriage of color and flavor with kabocha squash, bittermelon (ampalaya), eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and whatever fresh vegetables are at hand. Some add pork, but I make it vegetarian. Eating a good pinakbet feels like good medicine.
More on Eggplant:
Following Day 4's post on controversies around food security, biopiracy and DNA, a recent article on genetically modified eggplant in Asia
Burnt Lumpia's excellent blog on making the delicious egg-and-eggplant dish, Tortang Talong