Updated: February 8, 2010 09:39 IST

Simmering brinjal

D. Murali
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The Bt debate has brought brinjal to the forefront. . The humble vegetable that is simmering in recent news has suddenly replaced eggs and tomatoes in the hands of protestors.

Yet, don’t be surprised if Word redlines ‘brinjal.’ Ignoring the software’s repulsive right-click suggestions such as ‘renal’ and ‘primal’ if you look up ‘brinjal’ in, a ‘quick definition’ pops up: ‘Hairy upright herb native to southeastern Asia but widely cultivated for its large glossy edible fruit commonly used as a vegetable.’

Wikipedia redirects a ‘brinjal’ search to ‘eggplant’ – a fruit ‘botanically classified as a berry,’ containing ‘numerous small, soft seeds, which are edible, but are bitter because they contain (an insignificant amount of) nicotinoid alkaloids, unsurprising as it is a close relative of tobacco.’

The plant is native to India, informs It “… appears to have become known to the Western world no earlier than ca. 1500. The first known written record of the plant is found in Qí mín yào shù, an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544… In Australia, the local people believed for a brief period when the eggplant was first introduced to the country that the plant would produce hen’s eggs as fruit.”

For the avid, the Free Encyclopedia devotes a whole page to Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt), a soil-dwelling bacterium that also occurs naturally in the gut of caterpillars of various types of moths and butterflies, as well as on the dark surface of plants.

The page wraps ominously with a paragraph about a new phenomenon called ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD) affecting bee hives all over North America. Initial speculation on possible causes ranged from cell phone and pesticide use to the use of Bt resistant transgenic crops, but a 2007 report of the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium found no evidence that pollen from Bt crops is adversely affecting bees, informs Wikipedia. “The actual cause of CCD remains unknown, and scientists believe that it may have multiple causes.”

Even as the fate of Bt brinjal remains likewise in suspense, it may be advisable to energise oneself with ‘eggplant recipe’ finds such as ‘Cooking with Josh’ (, offering a ‘recipe that vegetarians are sure to love.’

Take fresh eggplant and cut it, put olive all over pieces and place on a grill with ground black pepper and salt, begins the ‘healthy holiday contest winner Josh Aaron from the Island Bar and Grill at Highport Marina.’ “For salsa: 1 container grape tomatoes; 2 stalks chopped celery; 1/2 chopped onion; 2tbs capers; 1tbs chopped garlic; pinch of salt and black pepper; 1tbsp olive oil; 3 tbsp red wine vinegar. Mix all together, serve.”

Wonder what’s cooking meanwhile in the Ministry!

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